The German left wing party, the Social Democrats, has announced after an eight hour meeting between the top officials of the party, that they will support talks with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.
After the election where Merkel’s party and her coalition partners, the very same Social Democrats, got a drubbing in the returns, the Social Democrats told her and the rest of Germany that they will not be seeking another coalition partnership. They blamed Merkel for the losses they suffered in the election and many believe that they will be dragged down to new record lows if they remain in partnership with the CDU.
However, the announcement that they will seek talks with Merkel is quite a remarkable change in attitude for the Social Democrats, after weeks of very public refusals to work with Angela Merkel and her party.
“The SPD will not say no to discussions,” said party General Secretary Hubertus Heil.
That willingness does not mean Germany is headed for another grand coalition of the sort that has run the country for eight of the past 12 years.
Top party officials, including SPD leader Martin Schulz, are reported to adamantly oppose such an arrangement. They blame their position as Merkel’s junior partner for the party’s downward slide in the polls, including a September result that was its worst since World War II.
But the party is also reluctant to contest another election so soon after its September drubbing. And after the Free Democrats pulled out of talks for a so-called Jamaica coalition — the colors of the parties matched those of the island nation’s flag — a change of heart by the SPD appeared to be the only way for Germany to avoid another vote.
Later Friday, Schulz said the party was shifting its stance due to “its responsibility to the country.” He said any agreement to back Merkel will be subject to a vote from the party’s membership, which has been highly skeptical of the idea.
Short of another grand coalition in which the SPD and the CDU govern together, the SPD also could prop up Merkel by agreeing to support her government on a vote-by-vote basis. But Merkel had said in a Monday night interview that she would prefer a new election to the uncertainty of a minority government.
This week’s impasse has no direct precedent in Germany’s postwar political history.
It has stirred speculation over how long Merkel can hang on to the chancellorship and whether a new vote might give even more impetus to the far-right Alternative for Germany party. It also has spawned anxiety across Europe, where other governments are looking to Germany for leadership on the continent’s biggest challenges.