Schroeder ministers push for coalition with CDU

8th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

8 August 2005, BERLIN - A key minister in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet on Monday added his voice to calls for a grand coalition of Social Democrats and opposition conservatives to lead Germany after next month's general election.

8 August 2005

BERLIN - A key minister in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's cabinet on Monday added his voice to calls for a grand coalition of Social Democrats and opposition conservatives to lead Germany after next month's general election.

Interior Minister Otto Schily, who is known for his law and order views, told ARD TV that if voters so cast their ballots a grand coalition could not be resisted.

Schily, who is one of Schroeder's most trusted and influential ministers, joins Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement and Finance Minister Hans Eichel who at the weekend spoke in favour of a grand coalition with Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU).

Clement - who is one of the top reformers in the government - even went so far as to make a veiled bid to stay on in his present job under Merkel.

"I want to continue what I have begun to a visible and successful conclusion," said Clement in a Focus magazine interview.

The growing push for a grand coalition comes as polls show a slight improvement for Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) which are still badly trailing Merkel's conservatives.

What gives the SPD new hope for staying in power - even as junior partner to the CDU/CSU - is a surge in the polls for a newly formed Left Party comprised of former East Germany's neo-communists and a smaller western German leftist movement.

With the Left Party projected to win up to 13 per cent, Merkel's CDU/CSU may be denied its desired majority with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who are slipping in popularity.

The CDU/CSU is at between 42 per cent and 45 per cent, with the FDP at 6 per cent to 8 per cent, the country's top six polling agencies say. Schroeder's SPD is at a grim 26 per cent to 28 per cent.

This could leave a grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD as the only possible option after expected September 18 national elections, which were called by Schroeder after defeats in regional votes. Final approval for the election to go ahead is required from Germany's highest court which will rule later this month.

Merkel firmly rejects any coalition with the SPD - but this may be the only bloc capable of mustering a majority in the Bundestag lower house given that Schroeder and top SPD officials rule out any government with the Left Party which is co-led by the rebel ex-SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine whom the Chancellor cordially detests.

A spokesman for Schroeder said talk of a grand coalition was "not very helpful" and insisted that the German leader simply wanted to make the SPD as strong as possible.

Views on what a grand coalition could achieve in Germany differ greatly.

Peter Loesche, a political scientist at the University of Goettingen, predicts a grand coalition would pave the way for major reforms needed to cut the jobless rate of almost 12 per cent and restore growth to a weak economy.

But Ludwig Braun, head of German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHT), warns that grand coalitions run the danger of only agreeing watered down legislation.

"We cannot afford four more years of deadlock," said Braun as quoted by Bild newspaper.

Germany's only experience with a grand coalition, from 1966 to 1969, was relatively successful given that the government passed legislation aimed at both economic and budget reform - the same issues which top the agenda in Berlin today.

The grand coalition of almost 40 years ago had a CDU/CSU chancellor, Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, and Social Democratic vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Willy Brandt. This power constellation could mirror that of the next German government if current poll trends continue.

DPA

Subject: German news

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