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New Besties? German Greens, FDP cosy up to build coalition

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By Reuters
New Besties? German Greens, FDP cosy up to build coalition
New Besties? German Greens, FDP cosy up to build coalition   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

BERLIN – The leaders of Germany’s Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) posted a smiling selfie of themselves together on Wednesday that quickly went viral and said they were finding common ground in preliminary talks about a three-way coalition after Sunday’s election.

The two parties from opposite ends of the political spectrum and at odds on a range of major issues from finance to climate protection are seen as kingmakers after the vote, which was narrowly won by the Social Democrats (SPD).

Both the centre-left SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, which slumped to a record low percentage of the vote, would need the centre-right FDP and leftist Greens as partners to get a parliamentary majority and form a coalition government.

The SPD had said on Tuesday it hoped to start talks with the Greens and FDP this week but a close confidant of Olaf Scholz, the SPD candidate for chancellor, said on Wednesday talks would probably only get going next week or even later.

The photo of Greens leaders Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock with FDP leader Christian Lindner and General Secretary Volker Wissing at an unknown location appeared to send an upbeat message about prospects for the parties working together.

“We are looking for common ground and bridges across divisions. And even finding some,” read the caption below the photo in which they were all smiling. “Exciting times.”

Within hours, the photo went viral and became the subject of many jokes online. Some posts manipulated the images to show the four wearing masks or superimposing the faces of other politicians on top. Others showed the four as a pop band. On one, they sing the 1979 disco hit “We Are Family”.

All four posted the photo at the same time in the early hours of Wednesday on Instagram, a popular social media platform with younger voters, who are a key source of support for both parties.

Commentators said the coordinated post showed that the parties were determined to create a narrative in which they would be a central, binding force at the heart of any alliance.

However, neither side has tried to disguise the scale of the challenge ahead.

Asked at a news conference on Monday about any similarities between them, Baerbock quipped: “I am around the same age as Christian Lindner, and he and Robert Habeck are both men.”

Scholz, who is presently finance minister in Merkel’s coalition, is keen to do a deal with the Greens, which won 14.8% of the vote, and the FDP, which got 11.5%, by Christmas.

If negotiations collapse on a coalition between the SPD, Greens and FDP, the two smaller parties may approach the conservatives who have said they are open to talks.