Merkel Party Warns of Far-Right Risk as Coalition Timeline Slips

(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party pressed the Social Democrats to hurry up and end Germany’s political deadlock, saying the country needs a stable government to avert further far-right gains.

Merkel and other leaders of her Christian Democratic Union discussed strategy for coalition talks on Tuesday while waiting for the Social Democrats to say when they’re ready begin. With Merkel due to address the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday and SPD leaders meeting on Thursday, the timeline is already sliding toward the end of the week.

Reiner Haseloff, CDU premier of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, said the arrival in parliament of the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is reason enough for the two big established parties to end bickering and cut a deal.

“You can see the responsibility we have to stop this trend before it gets out of hand,” Haseloff told reporters. “I’m from a state where the AfD holds a quarter of the seats in the legislature.”

Merkel and her backers have been pressing for talks to start since Sunday, when 56 percent of SPD delegates at a deeply divided convention voted in favor of staying in government. Merkel’s bloc has said it wants to wrap up coalition talks by the third week of February, followed by an SPD membership ballot and the swearing-in of a new cabinet by Easter.

‘Plan B’?

The chancellor is considering alternatives to a third “grand coalition” with the SPD, Bild newspaper reported, citing CDU officials it didn’t identify. That “Plan B” would involve governing without a majority in parliament, according to Bild.

At the SPD convention, members who favor a period of renewal outside government were defeated after party leaders vowed to demand policy concessions from Merkel to improve a framework deal agreed after marathon talks on Jan. 12.

Leaders of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, are pushing back against that notion, further raising the stakes for the talks.

“It’s time to get moving,” Volker Bouffier, the CDU premier of Hesse state, told reporters in Berlin. “We’re not going to go start all over again in our discussions.”

Merkel can’t start her fourth term until Germany’s longest party stalemate since east-west reunification in 1990 is resolved and a new governing coalition sworn in. Though the CDU won the federal election in September, Merkel’s bloc and the SPD fell to historic lows, eroding the political center and limiting leeway for compromise on both sides.

Support for the SPD declined half a percentage point to 18 percent in an INSA poll for Bild, which compares with its post-World War II low of 20.5 percent in the September election, where the CDU-CSU took 32.9 percent. Merkel’s bloc held at 31.5 percent in the latest poll.

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