Merkel ready to lead conservatives into fresh election battle

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands ready to lead her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) into fresh elections amid the threat that voters might have to return to the polls.

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PIX: Maurizio Gambarini/dpa

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel stands ready to lead her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) into fresh elections amid the threat that voters might have to return to the polls.

After talks to form a new coalition under her leadership broke down on Monday, Merkel told German public television that she was “a woman who has responsibility and is ready to take on more responsibility.”

In the meantime, German party leaders came under enormous pressure to return to the negotiations table to forge a new coalition after the talks to create an untested three-way coalition collapsed in the early hours of Monday morning.

The breakdown of the talks plunged Europe’s biggest economy into political uncertainty with the centre-left Social Democrats (SDP) coming under fire for their refusal to join a rerun of Merkel’s current government alliance.

Speaking on public television, Merkel said she never considered standing down as chancellor following the failure of coalition talks between her conservative political bloc, the environmental Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

She said she preferred to hold early elections rather than form a minority government with her battle to forge a new coalition coming in the wake of the September election when her political bloc suffered its worst result since 1949.

A survey mounted after the collapse of the talks by Berlin pollsters Forsa found that 45 per cent of voters were in favour of early polls.

The breakdown of the coalition talks is likely to set the stage for a rowdy meeting of the normally sedate German parliament on Tuesday, which resumes for the second time on Tuesday after the September 24 election.

On Monday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on political leaders to rethink their current stance after the FDP pulled out of the often fraught four weeks of coalition talks.

“I expect everyone to be willing to talk in order to make the formation of a government possible,” said Steinmeier.

German business also stepped up its call for the nation’s political leaders to lay aside their differences and form a new national coalition.

“Economic stability needs political stability,” said Dieter Kempf, who heads up the powerful Federation of German Industry (BDI).

The FDP defended its decision to abandon the talks with deputy leader Katja Sueding saying that it had not been for the FDP “to lay our liberal imprint on key topics.”

Merkel has, however, made little secret that her preferred coalition option was with the SPD rather than a more cumbersome and potentially strike-riven coalition with the Greens and the FDP.

As a reult, key Merkel party allies took the SPD to task over its decision to forfeit government and return to the opposition benches.

“What the SPD … has declared stands explicitly against the wishes of the federal president to take responsibility,” said Volker Kauder, a CDU parliamentary faction leader.

Steinmeier said he was planning talks with party leaders to press them to resume their talks to form a coalition with the CDU, claiming that party negotiators had been close to a deal before the FDP walked out.

SPD leader Martin Schulz said he had a meeting with Steinmeier set for Wednesday.

“We’re not afraid of this election,” said Schulz, who led his party to its worst election result since 1949.

However, with the pressure on the SPD mounting, the party’s parliamentary leader Andrea Nahles appeared to step back from ruling out rejoining a Merkel-led coalition and said the party was ready for talks.

The Greens said they were also open to resuming the talks, which were supposed to lay the groundwork for full coalition negotiations.

Schulz also declined to say on Monday whether he would spearhead the SPD’s election campaign in the event of a new poll insisting that he retained the right to nominate a candidate. -dpa

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