Angela Merkel's conservatives and SPD open grand coalition talks

Angela Merkel's conservatives and SPD open grand coalition talks

Formal coalition talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU); their sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU); and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) started on Friday. As Deutsche Welle writes in an article "Germany: Angela Merkel's conservatives and SPD open grand coalition talks", the talks are aimed at forming what is commonly referred to as a grand coalition, which would bring together Germany's two largest parties to form a government.

Germany's general election last year witnessed the CDU garner the most votes, but fall short of a governing majority. The SPD said it would not form a government with the CDU/CSU after the elections, forcing Merkel to attempt a so-called Jamaica coalition with the Greens and the Free Democrats. Exploratory coalition talks with the Greens and FDP fell through in November, forcing Merkel's conservatives to pivot to their former coalition partners, the SPD.

On Sunday, the SPD narrowly voted to go ahead with formal coalition talks despite a major push from the center-left party's youth wing to back out of a possible grand coalition. Merkel was optimistic about the talks, saying: "People expect us to move towards forming a government, and that's why I'm very optimistic and very determined in these discussions that we reach a result and I believe that is achievable in a relatively manageable time frame." SPD leader Martin Schulz said forming a stable government was pivotal for the country's success: "Given the challenges from China and the US, the EU needs a strong, pro-European Germany." Horst Seehofer, who leads the CSU, was upbeat ahead of the talks, saying: "We will do everything in our power today and in the coming weeks to arrive at a good result." Grand coalition is a governing coalition between a parliament's two largest parties. In Germany's case, it means a coalition between the CDU/CSU and SPD. The previous government was the third "grand coalition" since Germany adopted its current political system. Germany also witnessed "grand coalitions" in the 1960s and 2000s.

If the CDU/CSU and SPD form a government, what parties will form the opposition? Last year's elections witnessed the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) become the third-largest party in parliament. They would become the largest opposition party if a "grand coalition" government is formed. The Left Party, parliament's fifth-largest party, would also play a key opposition role to a Merkel-led government.

The talks are largely viewed as Merkel's last chance to form a stable government. If talks fail to produce a governing coalition, the CDU could try for a minority government, although fresh elections would be the most likely outcome. However, if she manages to pull together a grand coalition, then it's on to governing Europe's largest economy.