German parties clash over chancellor

German parties clash over chancellor

BERLIN – Angela Merkel’s conservatives have demanded that Gerhard Schroeder agree to step aside before serious coalition talks begin with his Social Democrats, but the chancellor’s party showed no signs of backing down.

A day after Schroeder suggested for the first time that he may be ready to give up his claim to power to facilitate the formation of a new government between Germany’s two largest parties, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) made clear they were not satisfied with his vague promise. They have said for weeks that no serious talks can begin with the SPD before Schroeder clearly concedes defeat and acknowledges Merkel’s right to become chancellor.The stand-off has turned into a drawn-out game of cat-and-mouse in which both parties seek to portray their rivals as unreasonably blocking the formation of a new government.”I think it is time for the SPD to recognise reality,” CDU general secretary Volker Kauder told German public television.”The German people are waiting for a government to be formed.I call on the rational elements in the SPD to recognise our claim (to the Chancellery) so that we can move ahead on the substance of these talks.”Neither the CDU nor the SPD won enough votes in a Sept.18 election to govern with their preferred allies and have been forced into discussions on forging a power-sharing government.Today they will meet for a third round of exploratory talks.SPD chief Franz Muentefering signalled on Monday a desire to move beyond the initial phase and begin substantive negotiations, but his party is reluctant to sacrifice Schroeder – its biggest bargaining chip – before those talks begin.”In the exploratory talks that are now underway we can’t come to a decision (on the Chancellor),” Muentefering said on public television just before Kauder spoke.”Only when we enter serious negotiations can we discuss such issues.Beforehand it is simply not possible.”It is unclear who will blink first.But the posturing is considered unlikely to stand in the way of Germany’s first “grand coalition” since the 1960s.The SPD, which won four fewer parliamentary seats than Merkel’s conservatives, has said it wants to be recognised as an “equal” in the discussions.That would allow it to win a number of prominent ministerial posts and heavily influence policy.Schroeder’s party opposes Merkel’s plans to ease firing rules, cut payroll costs and change the way unions negotiate contracts across entire industries.The parties have signalled agreement in a series of other areas, however, including reforms to the cumbersome federal system, changes to the tax code and budget policy.- Nampa-ReutersThey have said for weeks that no serious talks can begin with the SPD before Schroeder clearly concedes defeat and acknowledges Merkel’s right to become chancellor.The stand-off has turned into a drawn-out game of cat-and-mouse in which both parties seek to portray their rivals as unreasonably blocking the formation of a new government.”I think it is time for the SPD to recognise reality,” CDU general secretary Volker Kauder told German public television.”The German people are waiting for a government to be formed.I call on the rational elements in the SPD to recognise our claim (to the Chancellery) so that we can move ahead on the substance of these talks.”Neither the CDU nor the SPD won enough votes in a Sept.18 election to govern with their preferred allies and have been forced into discussions on forging a power-sharing government.Today they will meet for a third round of exploratory talks.SPD chief Franz Muentefering signalled on Monday a desire to move beyond the initial phase and begin substantive negotiations, but his party is reluctant to sacrifice Schroeder – its biggest bargaining chip – before those talks begin.”In the exploratory talks that are now underway we can’t come to a decision (on the Chancellor),” Muentefering said on public television just before Kauder spoke.”Only when we enter serious negotiations can we discuss such issues.Beforehand it is simply not possible.”It is unclear who will blink first.But the posturing is considered unlikely to stand in the way of Germany’s first “grand coalition” since the 1960s.The SPD, which won four fewer parliamentary seats than Merkel’s conservatives, has said it wants to be recognised as an “equal” in the discussions.That would allow it to win a number of prominent ministerial posts and heavily influence policy.Schroeder’s party opposes Merkel’s plans to ease firing rules, cut payroll costs and change the way unions negotiate contracts across entire industries.The parties have signalled agreement in a series of other areas, however, including reforms to the cumbersome federal system, changes to the tax code and budget policy.- Nampa-Reuters

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