German SPD to Back Merkel Coalition to Halt Slump, Left Says

(Bloomberg) -- The German Social Democratic Party rank and file will likely back another grand coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel in a vote next month to try to halt a slump in their support, a senior lawmaker from the opposition Left Party predicted.

The failure of Germany’s established parties to form a government more than four months after national elections has eroded trust in the country’s political system and hurt the SPD, Gesine Loetzsch, a former chairwoman of the post-communist Left, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Berlin on Wednesday.

With support for the SPD at an all-time low, Loetzsch forecast that a majority of the more than 460,000 members in the special ballot will want to stop the bleeding by entering into government again with Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc.

“Every member of the Social Democratic Party sees the opinion polls and they want to put an end” to the decline in support, said Loetzsch, who served as Left Party co-leader from 2010 to 2012. “They want to show the public that they are able to act. But I think the whole situation is not only bad for the SPD, it’s a bad situation for all parties because people lose more and more trust in political parties.”

Electoral losses by the two biggest parties have left Europe’s largest economy at a crossroads. If enough SPD members bow to party leaders and vote in favor of a coalition, it would maintain the stability embodied by Merkel. A vote against could sweep away the current generation of leaders and trigger new elections, unsettling partners in Europe and beyond.

Dwindling Support

Loetzsch told Bloomberg TV that Andrea Nahles, 47, the newly-nominated SPD chairwoman who said Tuesday that she’ll lobby in favor of a grand coalition, should steer her party toward a “middle-left government” in Germany in the medium term that would include the Left Party and reject Merkel’s bloc.

Nahles, a former leader of the SPD’s youth wing, should work for “a new social idea” rather than invest in an alliance with dwindling support, added Loetzsch, who is serving her fifth term in the Bundestag.

Recent polls have made painful reading for both the CDU-CSU and the SPD. Support for Merkel’s bloc slumped to 29.5 percent in an INSA poll of 2,608 people taken Feb. 9-12, from the 32.9 percent of the votes it got in the Sept. 24 federal election.

Backing for the SPD plunged to an all-time low of 16.5 percent, while the far-right AfD, the third-strongest party in parliament, scored 15 percent, compared with 12.6 percent in the election. Left Party support strengthened to 11.5 percent from 9.2 percent.

“It’s not a good idea to have a so-called grand coalition because it isn’t a grand coalition any more. They have only a few points over 50 percent” and no majority in current polls, Loetzsch said. “A lot of voters are very disappointed and they suffer from this social division in our country.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.