Germany faces prospect of snap election as coalition talks collapse

'It is better not to govern, than to govern falsely,' says Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner as negotiations break down over climate change and migration 

David Rising
Monday 20 November 2017 01:45 GMT
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Angela Merkel speaks after exploratory talks on forming a new government broke down
Angela Merkel speaks after exploratory talks on forming a new government broke down (AFP/Getty)

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Germany faces the possibility of new elections after the small Free Democrats pulled out of talks on forming a government with chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the Greens, saying that the parties were unable to develop an acceptable framework for moving ahead.

Free Democrat leader Christian Lindner told reporters that his party decided to withdraw from the drawn-out negotiations rather than further compromise its principles.

"It is better not to govern, than to govern falsely," he said.

Without the Free Democrats, Ms Merkel will be forced to try to continue her current governing coalition with the Social Democrats, although that centre-left party has said it will not do so, or she could try to form a minority government, which is seen as unlikely. Otherwise Germany will have to hold new elections.

Ms Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and sister Bavaria-only Christian Social Union, the pro-business Free Democrats and the left-leaning Greens had already blown past Ms Merkel's own deadline of Thursday to agree on a basis for opening formal negotiations on a coalition of all four parties, a configuration that has never been tried at a national level in Germany.

Greens politician Reinhard Buetikofer criticised Mr Lindner's decision, saying on Twitter that the Free Democrat leader had chosen "a kind of populist agitation instead of governmental responsibility".

Key sticking points were the issues of migration and climate change.

Among other things the Greens were pushing for Germany to end its use of coal and combustion engines by 2030, though they had signalled they were open to some compromise.

The other parties are also committed to reducing carbon emissions, but Ms Merkel's bloc had not put a date on when to phase out coal. The Free Democrats also expressed concern about what the moves would mean for jobs and Germany's economic competitiveness.

On migration, the Christian Social Union was pushing for an annual cap on refugees, while the Greens wanted to allow more categories of recent migrants to bring their closest relatives to join them.

The centre-left Social Democrats, Ms Merkel's partners in the outgoing government, have been adamant about going into opposition after a disastrous result in the September 24 election. Party leader Martin Schulz on Sunday again ruled out the possibility of pairing up with Ms Merkel's bloc to form a new government.

If it comes to a new election, polls currently suggest it would produce a very similar parliament to the current one, which would make efforts to form a new government similarly difficult.

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