German SPD leaders upbeat as biggest branch backs coalition talks

Angela Merkel

GETTYAngela Merkel has been warned there is'no plan B to German grand coalition

During preliminary coalition talks last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Union bloc and the Social Democrats agreed to "immediately" stop approving arms exports to countries involved in the conflict.

Ahead of a crucial vote by the SPD membership this weekend, which will decide whether the coalition deal can go ahead, Mrs Merkel said the success of the European Union required a stable German government.

Opponents of the talks within the SPD, especially members of the party's youth and left wings, are campaigning actively against further talks. He said the SPD - which posted its worst result since 1933 in the election - was likely to see further losses.

"The exploratory talks created a framework for what is possible and what isn't", he said. "Nevertheless, I ask everyone in my party to take responsibility: Please consider the consequences if this government option fails".

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He said: "If the party reject a coalition it will lead to new elections, and fast".

Many experts fear that new elections could further strengthen the anti-immigrant, far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered parliament for the first time in September.

A negative vote by the SPD on Sunday would prolong political deadlock in Europe's largest economy, which has been without a government since the September 24 election that weakened both blocs.

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"I don't want the geriatric nurse to have to wait four years for better working conditions just so the SPD feels better", he said.

However the grand coalition is far from a done deal.

The SPD branch in that region wants a final coalition agreement to include a call to abolish Germany's dual public-private health insurance system in favour of a single citizen's insurance, to scale back temporary employment contracts and to allow family reunions for asylum seekers suffering unusual hardship.

A new poll by broadcaster ZDF showed that 64 per cent of Germans - and 75 per cent of SPD members - expect SPD delegates to approve further talks with Dr Merkel's conservatives.

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"We'll still be talking about details - but basic things that are not already in the blueprint won't be added during coalition negotiations", Strobl told Funke media group.

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