German coalition on the brink of collapse after junior party veers left

The future Angela Merkel’s government has been thrown into doubt after her junior coalition partners elected a new leftwing leadership duo.

Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken, from the left of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), have called for major policy concessions from Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), and say they are prepared to pull the plug on the partnership.

Reuters reports that both are “strong leftist critics of the coalition” and their election risks “possibly putting the country, Europe’s largest economy, at a political crossroads”.

“Their ascendancy raises the chances of an early election or minority government if the SPD leaves the coalition, which could trigger political instability at a time when the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has become the country’s third-largest party” says the news agency.

With support for the SDP at near-record lows, the leadership contest was coloured from the start by a struggle over the party’s political direction and outlook.

“The party’s leftwing has long argued that the SPD needs to break with Merkel at the earliest opportunity, and try to recover and rebuild in opposition”, says the Financial Times.

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The newspaper reports that critics of SPD centrists who have vowed to remain part of the coalition “believe the party’s political profile has become increasingly hard to distinguish from that of the chancellor’s centre-right bloc, leaving rivals like the Greens to scoop up traditional SPD voters”.

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With victory for the left, The Guardian reports that Germany “is facing the prospect of months of political uncertainty with the collapse of the coalition, which has been fragile since its inception after the 2017 election, a growing likelihood”.

“It also raises the prospect that Merkel, who has said she will not run for another term in office, will face an earlier exit from the political stage than she intended”, the newspaper adds.

Yet the marriage of convenience could yet surive. Writing in Deutsche Welle, political correspondent Sabine Kinkartz says that “given that Germany will assume the EU Council presidency in 2020, and given the poor polling results of the SPD and CDU, neither party is keen to hold an early election.”


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