Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed confidence yesterday that three party groups trying to form a new German government can reach a coalition deal, despite scepticism from her would-be allies.
With her former coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), determined to go into opposition, Merkel is pushing for a coalition with the ecologist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), after her conservatives bled support to the far-right in an election last month.
“I think difficult deliberations lie ahead of us in the coming days,” Merkel told reporters on arrival for a fresh round of exploratory talks yesterday. “But I still think we can tie the ends together if we try and work hard.”
Merkel needs the coalition line-up, which is untested at national level, to work or could see her time in power coming to an end after 12 years.
Failure would almost certainly result in new elections that could see further gains for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which surged into parliament after last month’s vote.
However, after two weeks of talks, the unlikely allies remain at odds over issues, in particular over immigration, climate, transport and foreign policy.
“We have sat together for 10 days, 12 topics. The result is eight papers with long lists of dissent,” Juergen Trittin, a Greens negotiator, told ARD television. “And in four areas we haven’t even managed to agree on what we disagree about.”
Merkel said on election night – September 24 – that she was confident there would be a stable government before Christmas.
Senior conservatives close to her say it may take until next year for a new government to form.
FDP leader Christian Lindner puts the odds on the formation working at 50-50.
After failing to win any seats in the previous parliament, he is nervous about making compromises that could again send his party into the political wilderness.
Greens foreign policy expert Omid Nouripour said the coalition talks might fail altogether.
“I can imagine that,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio.
The Greens plan to present results of the exploratory talks to party members on November 25, after which the three groups aim to move to more detailed negotiations.
Merkel said the two weeks of exploratory talks had allowed the parties to set out positions and start work towards a deal.
“Now we have a wealth of facts on the table,” she said.