Conservatives could break offtalks if Schroeder stays put

4th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 October 2005, BERLIN - Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) could break off talks on a new government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) if the SPD's Gerhard Schroeder does not finally step aside as chancellor, sources in the party's leadership said Tuesday.

4 October 2005

BERLIN  - Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) could break off talks on a new government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) if the SPD's Gerhard Schroeder does not finally step aside as chancellor, sources in the party's leadership said Tuesday.

The comment came a day before a scheduled third round of talks between the stalemated parties on forming a coalition between them.

Sources said most members of the CDU's executive, in a conference call Monday evening, had agreed there was no point in talking further if the SPD did not accept the CDU's Angela Merkel as chancellor before formal negotiations began.

In an interview with Germany's ARD television on Tuesday, SPD Chairman Franz Muentefering reiterated that his party aimed to lead any coalition with the conservatives and that Schroeder remained its standard-bearer.

Muentefering said it would be a "big misunderstanding" if the CDU and its allies expected otherwise.

In inconclusive parliamentary elections on September 18, the CDU and CSU, its Bavaria-based sister party, won 225 seats compared to 222 for the SPD. The CDU/CSU picked up another seat in a by-election in Dresden on Sunday.

The two sides, unable to form coalitions with minor parties that would bring a parliamentary majority, have held two rounds of exploratory talks on a possible 'grand coalition.' So far, however, both have insisted on providing the chancellor.

"We want Gerhard Schroeder, and we want our programme," Muentefering said, adding that a decision on who would be chancellor could only be made during formal coalition talks.

The CDU's general secretary, Volker Kauder, on Tuesday repeated the conservatives' demand that the SPD accept Merkel as chancellor before negotiations begin. The SPD must "recognize realities", he told ARD.

On Monday, Schroeder had signalled a willingness to step down to make way for "a stable government", saying he would leave it up to his party's leaders to decide whether it was time for him to do so.

But SPD leaders said after an impromptu meeting shortly afterward that they had urged Schroeder to stay on in a bid to strengthen the party's hand in negotiations with the CDU/CSU.

The SPD has argued that despite having won fewer parliamentary seats than the CDU/CSU, it remains the country's strongest party. It has governed together with Germany's Greens since 1998.

CSU Chairman Edmund Stoiber said Tuesday that the Dresden vote had strengthened Merkel's claim to the chancellorship. Speaking in Munich, Stoiber -- who lost to Schroeder in 2002 elections -- urged the SPD to climb down from its demands.

DPA

Subject: German news

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