German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces internal party resistance to her planned coalition with the Social Democrats as efforts by both sides to form a joint government for her third term enter the final phase.
Merkel is due to address a meeting in Berlin today of members of her Christian Democrats after separate weekend attacks by the CDU’s economic council and a group of more than 50 young party lawmakers. Both criticized the coalition pact published last month for making too many concessions to the SPD on matters such as a national minimum wage and on lowering the retirement age to 63 from 67 for some workers.
The idea of retiring at 67 “has slowly been sinking in” after the pensionable age was raised in Merkel’s first-term alliance with the SPD from 2005 to 2009, Jens Spahn, a federal CDU lawmaker, said on ZDF television today. “It sends the wrong signal if we now say people can retire at 63.” Kurt Lauk, head of the CDU’s economic council, told Bild newspaper that his group “can’t support this coalition contract.”
Concerns within Merkel’s bloc that the chancellor conceded on too many Social Democratic policies to cement a so-called grand coalition of the two forces probably won’t harm the chances of SPD members backing the accord in a vote this week. The deadline for the mail-in ballot is midnight on Dec. 12, with the results due to be announced by Dec. 15.
Backing for the coalition is assured, Thomas Oppermann, the SPD’s chief whip in parliament, was quoted as saying in an interview with Die Welt newspaper yesterday. “It will happen,” he said, citing the coalition commitment to implement the minimum wage and a women’s quota on supervisory boards.
More than eleven weeks after Merkel steered her Christian Democratic bloc to its best election result since Germany’s 1990 reunification, coalition building is now in the home stretch. This week will show whether Merkel is able to fulfill her wish of having a government in place by Christmas.
The SPD grassroots vote, the first in the party’s post-World War II history, has a minimum participation rate of 20 percent to be valid. About 200,000 of the 475,000-strong membership had voted as of Dec. 6, Bild reported, citing an internal e-mail from SPD General Secretary Andrea Nahles. Oppermann said that 70 percent or more of SPD members will probably vote.
Merkel is due to open a meeting of about 180 CDU delegates from the national executive at noon in Berlin. They will back the contract with a broad majority, CDU General Secretary Hermann Groehe said in a Dec. 7 interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
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