German Chancellor Angela Merkel has entered new talks about forming a coalition government, after a previous effort failed in November.
The latest talks are being held from Sunday to Thursday between Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) and the Social Democrat party (SPD), which ruled as a ‘grand coalition’ government from 2013 until a general election last year.
The SPD initially said it would go into opposition following the election, in which it received its worst results since 1933. Resistance to entering a new coalition remains strong within the party, and a campaign group has formed within its ranks to push the party away from reforming a coalition government with the CDU.
Nevertheless, the SPD’s leader, Martin Schulz – whose popularity among voters hit a historic low in a poll conducted last week – said that his party would take a constructive approach to the talks. Merkel also said that she was optimistic that a coalition agreement could be reached in advance of the talks.
How likely is it that the two parties will form a new coalition?
Negotiations over a new coalition are still not an immediate possibility, but if the talks demonstrate that there is sufficient common ground between the parties, they will act as a precursor to full coalition talks. A decision is due to be made by both parties on Friday as to whether or not to proceed with full coalition talks.
The two parties disagree on a number of key topics, including immigration, tax and healthcare, and some SPD members are concerned that if the parties form a coalition, the far-right Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) will become the main opposition party.
If they proceed, detailed coalition talks are expected to last until March. If the talks fail, the next stage could be another election, or a minority government, a first for post-war era Germany.