Merkel's Party Bows to Green Dominance in Wealthy Southern State

  • CDU opens talks with Greens to become junior partner
  • Green-CDU coalition would be first of its kind in Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party moved closer to an unprecedented role as junior-partner to the environmental Green Party in a key southwestern region it once dominated after an election defeat this month.

The Christian Democratic Union, which came in second to the Greens in a March 13 vote in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, formally agreed to hold talks to form a government late Wednesday. Should negotiations lead to a coalition, the Greens’ state premier Winfried Kretschmann would embark on a second term five years after his party ousted the CDU from power for the first time since 1953.

“We’re conscious of the fact that political enemies of yesterday could become a governing partner of tomorrow,” state CDU leader Thomas Strobl said after a party vote on talks in Stuttgart, according to SWR radio. Guido Wolf, the CDU’s failed candidate for the state premiership, said: “There can’t be a coalition at any price.”

Merkel’s party incurred losses in three state elections this month as the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which railed against the chancellor’s refugee policy, cut into the CDU base. In Baden-Wuerttemberg, the CDU’s woes were compounded by the popularity of Kretschmann, who in large part assumed the conservative mantle once assumed by the CDU.

A Green-led coalition with the CDU would be the first of its kind in German history. In the state of Hesse, home to financial capital Frankfurt, the CDU leads a government with support from the Greens.

Since 2011, the Greens have governed Baden-Wuerttemberg with the help of the Social Democrats, but that group’s electoral losses March 13 robbed the coalition of a majority. The pro-business Free Democrats rebuffed overtures to join the previous coalition to form a three-party majority.

The CDU suffered a similar fate in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate. Poised to oust the popular SPD-led government at the beginning of the year, Merkel’s party saw its advantage vanish. SPD state premier Malu Dreyer is now seeking to forge a three-way coalition with the Greens and the FDP.

In national polls, Merkel’s CDU-led alliance gained a point to 36 percent, while the SPD languished at 20 percent, its lowest score since the 2013 election, according to a weekly poll by Forsa Wednesday. The AfD slid three points to 10 percent, while the Greens were unchanged at 13 percent.

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