Europe jittery as crunch vote looms for German coalition

Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi  Getty Images

Kurz ended a two-day visit to Berlin on Thursday| Michele Tantussi Getty Images

"The end of Angela Merkel's time in office has begun", Kevin Kuehnert, the head of the Social Democrats' youth wing and a prominent opponent of a coalition, said recently.

A new poll by broadcaster ZDF showed that 64 percent of Germans - and 75 percent of SPD members - expect SPD delegates to approve further talks with Merkel's conservatives. Mr Schulz is unlikely to remain as leader of the party.

"Europe is waiting for a Germany that knows its responsibility and can act decisively", Schulz said. She told of an encounter with an elderly lady at an airport, who had asked Nahles about the SPD position on pensions and then told her "I'm counting on you". But even if Social Democratic delegates vote Sunday to forge ahead, that's not the final hurdle.

Sunday's convention was the biggest obstacle to Merkel's plan to govern with the SPD.

SPD leader Martin Schulz, who after his party's loss in September elections initially said he would go into opposition rather than join a new iteration of a Merkel-led coalition, faced dissent from within the ranks, particularly from the left-wing.

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The thumbs-up will come as a huge relief to Merkel, staving off the threat of snap polls or the unappealing prospect of leading an unstable minority government.

"I'm asking for your trust", Schulz told the delegates, adding that turning away from further coalition talks would be "reckless".

Schulz on Sunday vowed to extract more concessions in the formal coalition talks. "This is achievable for the improvement of the lives of people in Germany and in Europe".

"There's still a lot of work before us, but it should be goal-oriented, intensive and in a sensible atmosphere despite all of the controversial issues", she said. They are divided over a vote that is still too close to call, with some arguing four more years of compromise will kill their party, while others believe the alternative is worse.

But when Mrs Merkel failed in her only coalition option, with the Free Democrats Party and the Green Party, Mr Schulz was persuaded back to the coalition negotiating table.

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Commentators say her struggles to form a new government have damaged her political standing and she is increasingly described as entering the twilight of her rule.

"If the parties who represent a majority in the Bundestag (the German parliament) fail to form a government, they will be punished by voters".

"In this way, we are doing so that we can be guided by the fundamental idea of the Elysee Treaty to unite our citizens and make our cooperation clear to everyone", said Merkel and Macron in a statement. Merkel emerged from that second-term government at the 2013 election with her party's best result in more than 20 years, while her coalition partners were punished.

A provisional blueprint for talks for a new government coalition in Germany agreed in January calls for systematically and significantly limiting glyphosate use with the aim of entirely ending use as quickly as possible.

Even if the content of the paper speaks to many needs, feelings and claims that have become apparent in the last few years - restrictions on immigration and asylum, an official immigration law, direct state investments in schools and more money for health care - few Germans are really convinced and voters are split in their support for a new grand coalition.

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