German political grandees press parties to compromise for stability | Reuters

 German political grandees press parties to compromise for stability | ReutersBERLIN (Reuters) - Two veteran allies of Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Germany’s parties on Tuesday to strike compromise to form a stable government that could drag Europe’s biggest economy out of a political impasse. FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner, leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) Angela Merkel, leader of the German Green Party Katrin Goering-Eckardt and Chief of Staff of the German Chancellery Peter Altmaier are seen on a balcony of German Parliamentary Society offices during the exploratory talks about forming a new coalition government held by CDU/CSU in Berlin, Germany, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File PhotoThe collapse of talks between Merkel’s conservative bloc, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmentalist Greens has thrown Germany into political uncertainty and raised the prospect of new elections. It has also cast some doubt over whether Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader after 12 years in office, will serve a fourth term after her conservatives bled support to the far-right in a Sept. 24 election, though still won the most seats. There are wider implications too for Europe since the collapse of talks means the euro zone’s ambitious plans for deeper economic integration could now be put on hold, euro zone officials said in Brussels on Tuesday. Merkel’s former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, now in the impartial role of parliamentary president, said compromise was the order of the day while chancellery chief Peter Altmaier gave parties three weeks to sort out the mess. “We must be in a situation in the next three weeks where there is clarity about whether there can be a stable government on the basis of this election result,” Altmaier, also acting finance minister, told ZDF television. Merkel has said she would prefer new elections to leading an unstable minority government. Until a government is agreed, Merkel continues as acting chancellor and previous ministers remain in post. Pressure is growing on the Social Democrats (SPD) whose leader Martin Schulz has refused to contemplate re-entering a Merkel-led government after voters punished them for sharing power with her for the last four years. Many in the SPD fear they would be committing political suicide to start another four-year term with Merkel, who is herself still popular. Altmaier pointed the finger at the SPD, saying the conservatives stood by their responsibility to ensure Germany has a stable and reliable government. “Like ‘Made in Germany’, we are known for having a stable and reliable government ... we must give the SPD a chance to think (about their responsibility),” said Altmaier. SPD IN SPOTLIGHT Andrea Nahles, head of the SPD’s parliamentary group reiterated that it did not want to prop up Merkel again. “We are not an emergency stop-gap for Merkel,” she said. However, she also said the SPD would use talks with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is meeting party leaders in coming days to explore possibilities to form a government, to find solutions, hinting at other possible options. “We should talk about how we form a process that leads our country into a new, stable government,” Nahles said, adding this might be a minority government or new elections. Steinmeier meets FDP and Greens leaders later on Tuesday. One option could be an alliance between the conservatives and Greens, who built up a certain level of trust during the exploratory talks, which could be ‘tolerated’ by the SPD. That could guarantee some government policies get through parliament. One former SPD leader Bjoern Engholm said the SPD should rethink their ‘no’ to a grand coalition, telling the Tagesspiegel the SPD should not cause instability. However, he said any such alliance would only be possible without Merkel. Many commentators think the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) stand to gain most from new elections although polls show no big differences from the September results. Due to a protracted procedure designed to avoid repeated elections, a new vote would take months to organise, raising worries that European reform efforts will be held up. “Europe needs a Germany that is capable of acting,” said Schaeuble. “The reactions from abroad show that Europe and many other countries in the world are waiting for us.” He said it was important for parties to compromise to avert a crisis, saying this did not mean parties had to ditch their principles. “The task is huge, but it’s not unsolvable.”

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2017 22:30:16 IST