Germany's SPD votes in favor of coalition talks with Merkel

Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi  Getty Images

Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi Getty Images

Germany's largest union grouping on Thursday recommended the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) vote to start formal coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, bolstering an all-out drive by the party to rally support.

Around 600 delegates met at the special party congress in Bonn to debate and vote on whether their leaders should push ahead with formal coalition talks on renewing an alliance with Ms Merkel's conservatives that took office in 2013.

"You can't find anyone in the party who's excited about another grand coalition", said K├╝hnert, leader of an angry cabal of SPD left-wingers and many younger members. The SPD suffered their worst ever defeat at the polls and secured only 20.5 percent of the vote.

A negative vote by the SPD would prolong Germany's political deadlock.

While she conceded the SPD had not won all its demands in the negotiations, including a call for a universal health insurance, she said other important projects were within reach. Nahles, who heads the SPD parliamentary group, lambasted those who opposed coalition talks for seven whole minutes.

Kurz came to power after taking over the conservative People's Party (OeVP) previous year and yanking it to the right, with a hardline stance on immigration. Hard negotiations will now begin, but the grassroots SPD membership could reject the deal their leaders broker once they get to examine the coalition contract and programme.

In an interview with ZDF television, Schulz dodged the question of whether he would join a Merkel-led cabinet, by saying: "Personnel matters will for sure be discussed at the end". Instead, virtually none of the leading German politicians demonstrated true leadership in the months prior and following the elections in September.

This agreement, Schulz will tell delegates on Sunday, guarantees substantial European reform and policies for Germany's low-earners, families and pensioners which will, cumulatively, have a positive effect on their lives.

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Six hundred delegates will vote on Sunday on whether to embark on full-blown coalition talks. The party has, for years, seen its popularity slide, most dramatically in September's general election - by which time it had served in a coalition for eight of the 12 years of Merkel's rule - when it scored its worst result for nearly 80 years.

Since becoming chancellor, Merkel has gained a reputation for bringing different political factions together - no mean feat given the domestic and worldwide challenges she has faced over the past 12 years. Schulz blamed Merkel for robbing the SPD of its identity while in coalition.

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Had the Social Democrats voted against opening negotiations, Merkel would have faced forming a minority government - which she has indicated she is not interested in doing - or a new election would have had to be called.

Family reunification: The current government (also a CDU/SPD "grand coalition") had suspended the right of refugees with a "limited protection status" to bring their families over.

Schulz told his pro-European party on Sunday that an European Union revamp would be a key agenda item in a new grand coalition with the SPD, allowing Berlin to join French President Emmanuel Macron's plan for a makeover of the bloc. State governments are functioning as normal and remain able to make decisions on a local level.

In the possible event of a CDU/CSU-SPD coalition, AfD, which holds the third most amount of seats in parliament, will become the primary opposition party.

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