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SPD narrowly beats Merkel’s party in German polls

German Social Democrat Olaf Scholz vowed on Monday to strengthen the European Union and keep up the transatlantic partnership in a three-way coalition government he hopes to form by Christmas to take over from Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

Mr. Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) came first in Sunday’s national election, just ahead of the conservatives, and aim to lead a government for the first time since 2005 in a coalition with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

Also Read: Germany embarks on tricky search for post-Merkel government

Mr. Scholz, 63, projected a sense of calm assurance when asked whether the close election result and the prospect of prolonged coalition negotiations sent a message of instability in Germany to its European partners.

“Germany always has coalition governments and it was always stable,” he said in fluent English, standing beside a statue of Willy Brandt, a Cold War-era SPD Chancellor awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for fostering dialogue between East and West.

The SPD, Germany’s oldest party, won 25.7% of the vote, up five percentage points from the 2017 federal election, ahead of Ms. Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservative bloc on 24.1%, provisional results showed. The Greens came in with 14.8% and the FDP won 11.5%.

The SPD’s recovery marks a tentative revival for centre-left parties in parts of Europe, following the election of Democrat Joe Biden as U.S. President in 2020. Norway’s centre-left Opposition party also won an election earlier this month.

Transatlantic ties

Mr. Scholz, who served as Finance Minister in Ms. Merkel’s outgoing ‘grand coalition’, said a government led by him would offer the U.S. continuity in transatlantic relations.

“The transatlantic partnership is of essence for us in Germany... So you can rely on continuity in this question,” he said, adding it was important for democracies to work together in a dangerous world even allowing for occasional “conflicts”.

Mr. Scholz said he hoped to agree a coalition before Christmas, “if possible”. With the election results, he said, voters have clearly told the conservatives to go and sit in the Opposition.

However, his conservative rival Armin Laschet, 60, said he could still try to form a government despite leading his CDU-CSU bloc to their worst ever national election result.

The parties will start sounding each other out on Monday about possible alliances in informal discussions.

The Greens and FDP said late on Sunday they would first talk to each other to seek areas of compromise before starting negotiations with either the SPD or the conservatives.

Investor relief

German shares rose on Monday, with investors pleased that the pro-business FDP looked likely to join the next government while the far-left Linke failed to win enough votes to be considered as a coalition partner.

“From a market perspective, it should be good news that a left-wing coalition is mathematically impossible,” said Jens-Oliver Niklasch, LBBW economist, adding that other parties had enough in common to find a working compromise.

Ms. Merkel, who did not seek a fifth term as Chancellor, will stay on in a caretaker role during the coalition negotiations that will set the future course of Europe’s largest economy.

If Mr. Scholz succeeds in forming a coalition, the former Mayor of Hamburg would become only the fourth post-Second World War SPD Chancellor and the first since Ms. Merkel took over from Gerhard Schroeder in 2005.


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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 6:25:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/spd-narrowly-beats-merkels-party-in-german-polls/article36702758.ece

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