BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed on Friday optimism ahead of the start of formal talks with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) aimed at achieving a deal to form a grand coalition government.
Merkel, of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, spoke to the press ahead of negotiations at her party’s headquarters in the capital Berlin.
“People expect us to move towards forming a government and that’s why I’m very optimistic and very determined,” Merkel said, adding that she thought it would be achievable in a “manageable time frame.”
On Sunday, members of the SPD – led by Martin Schulz – narrowly voted in favor of going into such talks with Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union of Horst Seehofer.
For his part, Schulz said before the talks with the other two parties that the European Union needed a “strong, pro-European Germany” in the face of challenges presented by the United States and China.
The SPD was heading into the negotiations at a time when the party was not performing well in the polls, after the last election in September, when it obtained its worst result since World War II, garnering 20.5 percent of the vote.
The latest polls have the SPD at between 17-19 percent support.
Should the parties reach a coalition agreement, it would have to be ratified by 440,000 SPD members.
Within the party, there is reticence to enter another grand coalition with Merkel’s conservatives, particularly within the SPD’s youth wing.
In last year’s election, the CDU did not obtain sufficient votes in order to govern alone, and subsequently went into talks with the Alliance 90/The Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party.
But those talks collapsed, and Schulz was forced to reconsider his earlier stance, which had been for his party to go into opposition.