Schroeder, Merkel to meet again over coalition question

7th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 October 2005, BERLIN - Germans were looking ahead Friday to the end of the weekend, hoping to learn whether the incumbent Gerhard Schroeder, his conservative challenger Angela Merkel, or perhaps someone else will be their chancellor after inconclusive elections on September 18.

7 October 2005

BERLIN - Germans were looking ahead Friday to the end of the weekend, hoping to learn whether the incumbent Gerhard Schroeder, his conservative challenger Angela Merkel, or perhaps someone else will be their chancellor after inconclusive elections on September 18.

Opinion polls meanwhile showed growing support for Merkel in a "grand coalition" of Germany's two big political blocs.

Schroeder, Merkel, and their top lieutenants conferred for four hours Thursday evening in an effort to settle the chancellor issue, the main stumbling block in the way of power-sharing between Schroeder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Merkel-led alliance of the Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU).

As expected, no statements were made after the meeting, which included SPD chairman Franz Muentefering and Edmund Stoiber, who heads the CSU. Cabinet posts were also thought to have been discussed, as well as who will become president of parliament and some policy issues.

A government spokesman said Friday that the four planned to meet again on Sunday evening, and that the public would likely be told of the results of their talks. Their parties' executives were to meet on Monday morning.

Schroeder was to leave Friday for a two-day visit to St. Petersburg and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was celebrating his 53rd birthday.

The CDU/CSU won 226 seats compared to 222 for the SPD in last month's elections. Neither side has been unable to form a coalition with minor parties that would bring a parliamentary majority.

The CDU/CSU has insisted that formal coalition talks could begin only when the SPD accepted Merkel, the CDU's leader, as chancellor. But the SPD has held on to Schroeder, arguing that it remained the strongest party and that the majority of parliament leaned, like itself, toward the left.

The SPD has hinted it might be more amenable to a conservative chancellor other than Merkel.

Analysts said the SPD's strategy was to extract the highest possible price from the CDU/CSU for eventually sacrificing Schroeder, who has led a governing coalition with Germany's Greens since 1998.

Most Germans, meanwhile, appear to favour power-sharing between the major parties. A poll commissioned by the German television network ZDF showed Friday that 63 per cent were for a "grand coalition", and 25 per cent against.

As to who should be chancellor, 47 per cent backed Merkel and 42 per cent Schroeder.

DPA

Subject: German news

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