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German Social Democrats upbeat about three-way coalition talks

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By Reuters
German Social Democrats upbeat about three-way coalition talks
German Social Democrats upbeat about three-way coalition talks   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

BERLIN – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) struck an upbeat tone before their first three-way talks with two smaller “kingmaker” parties on Thursday, aiming to move closer to leading a new government following an inconclusive national election.

The Greens and business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) agreed on Wednesday to enter the talks with the centre-left SPD, which narrowly beat outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in the Sept. 26 election but without securing a majority.

Unlike many other European countries, where the president or monarch invites one party leader to try to form a government, in Germany it is up to the parties themselves to decide.

SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said the three parties would get straight down to working on bridging their differences with a view to forming a so-called “traffic light” coalition – named after their respective colours.

“I’m not even thinking about the fact that they couldn’t work out,” he said of the talks, telling broadcaster ZDF: “Of course, the sticking points will be addressed today. There is no point in beating around the bush.”

At stake is Germany’s political future after 16 years with Merkel at the helm, its appetite to shape Europe’s largest economy for the digital era, and the extent of its willingness to engage with allies on global issues.

Both the Greens and FDP have kept in reserve the option of pursuing negotiations with the conservatives, but they said on Wednesday there would be no parallel talks for now.

A “traffic light” coalition already governs in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, but such a formation would be a first at federal level in Germany.

The FDP and Greens, far apart on many key policy areas, have already worked to find common ground in bilateral talks.

FDP leader Christian Lindner said on Wednesday his party, which has a greater policy overlap with the conservatives, shared with the Greens “a mutual conviction that there must be renewal in this country”.

Ahead of Thursday’s talks, Greens co-leader Robert Habeck told ZDF the substance of the meeting must remain confidential: “There needs to be a haven of trust that allows the partners to try things out,” he said.