SPD, CDU downplay hopes of quick solution to deadlock

6th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

6 October 2005, BERLIN - Germany's two main political blocs on Thursday played down expectations that a summit of party leaders later in the day would break the deadlock on who would be the next chancellor.

6 October 2005

BERLIN - Germany's two main political blocs on Thursday played down expectations that a summit of party leaders later in the day would break the deadlock on who would be the next chancellor.

Thursday evening's meeting, at an undisclosed location in Berlin, was agreed to Wednesday at talks between main party leaders on forging a 'grand coalition.' No statements were expected after the talks.

While the two major political blocs - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) and Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats-led (CDU) opposition - have been edging closer on key issues, the question of who will head the new government remained unresolved.

Party officials said further talks by the leaders will probably be necessary. Merkel emerged from a meeting of her party's executive Thursday to say a decision was unlikely before Sunday evening.

Franz Muentefering, the SPD chairman, said Thursday after a meeting of his party's executive that he hoped to have a package agreement in place - including resolution of the chancellor question - when the body met on Monday morning.

Muentefering reaffirmed that the SPD was going into the talks with the aim of keeping Schroeder in the chancellery.

Merkel said those attending Thursday's summit would be under "no time pressure" and that the discussions could continue Friday morning. She said the conservatives sought "not a coalition of the lowest common denominator," but "a coalition of new possibilities for Germany."

Early Thursday, the parties met to plot strategy ahead of the evening's meeting. The executives of the SPD and CDU met separately in Berlin, while leading officials of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the CDU's Bavaria-based sister party, conferred in Munich.

While the SPD has been insisting that Schroeder remain chancellor, the opposition has been adamant that Merkel become the country's government chief.

In addition, Merkel said Thursday that her party would demand the key post of president of the German parliament.

The two sides have been haggling since inconclusive elections on September 18.

Besides the chancellor question, issues expected to be discussed Thursday evening are cabinet posts, who will be elected as president of parliament, and some policy issues. The Bundestag, Germany's parliament, is scheduled to convene on October 18.

Schroeder, Merkel, Muentefering, and CSU Chairman Edmund Stoiber, who lost to Schroeder in 2002 elections, are to attend Thursday's meeting.

Both Schroeder and Merkel said Wednesday they saw a basis for a grand coalition. But the main sticking point has been the chancellor question, with the SPD insisting it be decided in formal coalition talks, and the CDU/CSU demanding that the SPD accept Merkel before negotiations begin.

The CDU/CSU won 225 seats compared to 222 for the SPD in last month's elections. The CDU/CSU picked up another seat in a by- election in Dresden on Sunday.

The two sides have been unable to form coalitions with minor parties that would bring a parliamentary majority.

*sidebar1*The SPD has argued that despite having won fewer parliamentary seats than the CDU/CSU, it remains the country's strongest party and would therefore deal "eye to eye" with the conservatives. It has governed together with Germany's Greens since 1998.

Analysts said the SPD was seeking the highest possible political price for sacrificing Schroeder as chancellor.

Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy leader of the CDU/CSU's parliamentary group, said it was now important to let Schroeder "get down from his high horse in a face-saving way."

Meanwhile, the head of the Munich-based economic institute ifo, Hans-Werner Sinn, urged the parties not to "manoeuvre till kingdom come." Germany needed a stable government to put its economic troubles behind it, he said, adding the uncertainty was "poison" to the economy.


Subject: German news

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