German SPD Leader `Optimistic' Party Will Back Talks With Merkel

(Bloomberg) -- German Social Democratic leader Martin Schulz said he’s “optimistic” the party will support coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc, saying a renewed coalition between the rivals will be an antidote to a rightward political drift in Europe.

In comments to reporters in Dortmund on Monday that were punctuated by right-wing hecklers, Schulz said he would pitch for backing from SPD members in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia for the “successful” results of exploratory talks with Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc.

The SPD will hold a special party conference on Sunday in Bonn on whether to proceed to official coalition talks after the two main blocs agreed on the outlines of a common platform for government in marathon negotiations last week.

“It must be clear to the members that we have a responsibility to this country,” Schulz said, noting that “the neighboring countries around us have right-wing governments.”

Renewing the so-called “grand coalition” with Merkel’s government is controversial, particularly in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s industrial heartland and historically a bastion of the SPD. The SPD state government was ousted from power last year in the region, which will send 144 delegates out of 600 to the SPD conference in Bonn.

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