Germany’s Social Democrats are due to vote Thursday on whether to discuss a new government alliance with Chancellor Angela Merkel, but at the time of choice, they are torn.
Meeting in Congress in Berlin until Saturday, some 600 delegates of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) will say by a vote in the afternoon if they agree to open talks with the Conservatives, always looking for allies to pull Germany out of the current political stalemate that deprives it of government.
Weakened by a historically low score in the parliamentary elections of 24 September, the Social Democrats are divided.
The party leadership, in the name of the country’s best interests, wants to discuss with Merkel but without enthusiasm. But some would rather be a cure of opposition to rejuvenate a party shaken by a crisis that crosses the whole of social democracy in Europe.
– ‘Take our responsibilities’ –
Basically, “no one really wants a new + grand coalition +”, summarizes one of the party cadres, Johannes Kahrs. “But in the current situation (…) it is about taking our responsibilities which means that we must at least discuss” with the conservatives.
But even if they decide to start talks with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian ally CSU, the establishment of a fourth government led by Angela Merkel should take many more months.
For one of the important figures of the SPD, the mayor of Hamburg (north), Olaf Scholz, she should not intervene “before spring”.
In any case, any discussions between social democrats and conservatives will not enter into the thick of things until January.
SPD President Martin Schulz, after being opposed to the idea of a new “grand coalition”, wants to get the green light from his executives to discuss with the Chancellor.
But he remains cautious about the possible outcome of dealings with the conservative camp. Their eventual result will be subject to a vote of activists.
The SPD could thus choose to enter into a new alliance with the CDU and the CSU as it has done twice under Ms Merkel (2005-2009, 2013-2017).
– Minority Government –
Or he could choose to support a minority Conservative government. This option has so far been rejected by Angela Merkel who wants a stable majority to govern, but the alternative would be early elections.
And according to a poll for the weekly der Spiegel, 56.5% of social democratic activists are in favor of supporting a minority government and only 27.9% want an alliance with the conservatives.
If in the end no compromise is found, the Germans will have to return to the polls, an unprecedented scenario since the post-war foundation of the Federal Republic.
“This is why we feel it is our duty to explore in discussions whether and in what form the SPD can support a new government,” says the four-page motion that will be put to the vote of the SPD delegates.
The Social Democrats have already set the themes they deem essential to participate in or support a Merkel government, starting with a fundamental reform of Europe, which must become “democratic, solidarity and social”.
The SPD actively supports the positions of French President Emmanuel Macron, who wants the creation of a budget for the euro area. The Conservatives are more dubious.
The French head of state went so far as to call Martin Schulz to encourage him to ally himself with the conservatives.
Social Democrats also demand universal medical coverage to reduce inequalities in the country against Medicare.
There is also a conflict between the SPD and the Conservatives over migration policy, which is sensitive to the origin of the failure of the previous attempt to form government with Liberals and environmentalists.
Martin Schulz, propelled at the beginning of the year at the head of the party, should also be reelected to the presidency during the congress.