Talks aimed at paving the way for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to unite four parties into her next governing coalition were on a knife’s edge as the clock ticked toward a Sunday deadline to avert a political crisis in Europe’s biggest economy.
Eight hours into the latest round in Berlin, negotiators said an accord remains elusive. Merkel and her Christian Democrat-led bloc were in a tense endgame to win over the Free Democratic Party and Greens for formal coalition talks, or risk triggering new elections and a possible end to Merkel’s fourth term before it begins. “It’s time for an up-or-down decision,” FDP general secretary Nicola Beer told reporters as party chiefs met into the night to try to break the deadlock.
A deal would open the door to bargaining on a detailed policy agenda and cabinet posts that Merkel’s party would like to conclude by Christmas. The chancellor, whose hold on power is on the line after 12 years in office, is proposing a 10-point interim accord to bring the exploratory talks to a successful conclusion, Hans Michelbach, a lawmaker from her Bavarian CSU sister party, told reporters. German public broadcaster ZDF reported earlier Sunday that the four parties were considering abandoning the talks.
Whatever happens, Germans are headed for uncharted territory. The three factions — nicknamed Jamaica for their respective party colors — haven’t governed together at the national level, and post-World War II Germany has never held a repeat election.
While Merkel has a mathematical majority in parliament to rerun a “grand coalition” with the Social Democrats, the SPD reiterated that it’s not interested after falling to its worst electoral defeat since World War II in September.
“The electorate voted the grand coalition out of office,” party head Martin Schulz told an SPD event in Nuremberg on Sunday, Deutsche Presse-Agentur newswire reported.
After four weeks of preliminary talks, policy on immigration, cuts in carbon emissions and Europe remained obstacles to a coalition accord on Sunday.
“We have moved in many areas, we have gone to the pain threshold” on refugee policy, Green negotiator Juergen Trittin said in an interview with Bild am Sonntag newspaper. The Greens won’t back down from their demand to let a certain number of refugees bring their families to Germany because denying this right would be “inhumane,” he said.