Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat chief Martin Schulz on Sunday vowed a new style of politics for Germany, as they opened talks on renewing their coalition to shake Europe’s biggest economy out of political paralysis after September’s inconclusive elections.
The week of meetings between Merkel’s conservative alliance and the Social Democrats (SPD) will examine whether the two sides have enough common ground to begin formal coalition negotiations towards a new government by March or April.
Merkel voiced optimism about going forward with the SPD as she went into the talks at the Centre-left party’s headquarters, saying “I think that it can be done”.
“We will work very swiftly and very intensively,” the veteran leader added.
Speaking on behalf of Merkel’s CDU, her Bavarian allies CSU as well as the SPD after the first day of talks, the Centre-left SPD’s Lars Klingbeil said: “The three party leaders made it clear in their opening statements that given the election results, we can’t just go on as before.”
“The global political situation, the situation in Europe, the composition of the German Bundestag, all that show that we find ourselves in a new era. And this new era needs new politics,” he said, adding that “a new political style” was also required.
September’s watershed elections left Merkel without a majority, while her junior coalition partner, the SPD, suffered its worst post-war score.
Meanwhile the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured more than 90 parliamentary seats — the best showing for a far-right party since the end of World War II.
The AfD capitalized on growing misgivings over more than a million asylum seekers who have arrived in Germany since 2015.