CDU extends feelers to Greens after Hamburg poll
Merkel’s party begins considering them as coalition partners after losing the absolute majority in Sunday’s election.
Berlin -- Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) have begun cautiously sounding out the Greens as coalition partners in Hamburg after the CDU emerged as the largest party but lost its absolute majority in Sunday's election in the northern German port.
"The chancellor has given me a free hand," incumbent CDU Mayor Ole von Beust said Monday.
He indicated that apart from extending feelers to the Greens, he would also be talking to the Social Democrats (SPD) on the possibility of forming the kind of broad coalition that Merkel heads at federal level in Berlin.
A CDU-Greens coalition would be a first in a German state, although the two parties have combined successfully at local level.
There are several hurdles. Von Beust and the CDU are determined to dredge the Elbe to increase the size of Europe's second-largest container port. They also want a new coal-fired power station.
On both of these points, the Greens are adamantly opposed. There are also major differences on education policy.
Greens national co-chairman Reinhard Buetikofer expressed reserve the morning after the elections, but did not rule out the possibility.
"If they (the CDU) are capable of a radical rethink in important policy areas in Hamburg, then talks would make sense and we would look into the possibility," Buetikofer said.
Political analyst Juergen Falter was more skeptical. "The CDU is eyeing the Greens, and the Greens leadership would be up for a coalition.
"But the rank-and-file has to give its blessing, and that won't happen," the Mainz-based professor said.
After the liberal FDP -- the CDU's preferred coalition partner -- failed to gain any seats in the Hamburg legislature, von Beust's sole other option is a deal with the SPD.
But the lack of enthusiasm on both sides is palpable.
On Monday, Merkel lashed out at SPD national chairman Kurt Beck, accusing him of "breaking his word" with regard to the state election in Hesse four weeks ago.
That jibe refers to moves by the SPD to probe the possibility of a tacit deal with the Left Party, seen by the CDU as a haven for unreconstructed East German communists.
In the run-up to the Hamburg poll, Beck let it be known he would not stand in the way of allowing Hesse SPD leader Andrea Ypsilanti to be elected state premier with the aid of Left votes in order to break an electoral deadlock in the state.
SPD leaders had earlier appeared to rule out any such deal.
And while Hamburg's SPD left open the possibility of a broad coalition with Von Beust, the indications were that Beck was less keen.
The SPD leader has consistently sought to put clear water between the party and Merkel's CDU ahead of national elections which must be held within 18 months.
The Left has been the only clear winner in the three state elections held in Germany this year, emerging from its bastion in the formerly communist east to hold seats in the legislatures of four western states.
That success has muddied the electoral waters -- Hesse and Hamburg appeared set for drawn-out horse-trading to form a governing majority, with the eventual outcome casting a long shadow over the next federal elections.
DPA with Expatica