Germany in political limbo after Social Democrats’ narrow win

BERLIN (AFP): Germany is headed for weeks, if not months, of protracted coalition haggling as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives insisted Monday on trying to form a government even after losing to the Social Democrats in a tight race.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who led the Social Democrats’ (SPD) campaign, said Europe’s biggest power would not be thrown off by the power struggle, stressing that Germany would remain “stable” even as parties scramble for coalition partners.
But the country pivotal in shaping Europe’s responses on issues from the coronavirus pandemic to relations with Russia and China, risks being put out of play on the international scene for some time, just as the upcoming COP26 climate summit will be demanding action from the world’s biggest powers.
Europe’s largest economy will also hold the presidency of the G7 club of rich nations next year, and will need a government capable of setting the international agenda.
Preliminary official results showed that the centre-left Social Democrats — junior partners in Merkel’s coalition — narrowly won the vote at 25.7 percent, while her centre-right CDU-CSU bloc sunk to a historic low of 24.1 percent.
The Green party placed third at 14.8 percent, its best result yet but still short of expectations. Laschet, 60, took responsibility for his side’s poor showing and vowed “renewal in all areas”.
But he insisted that “no party” — not even the SPD — could claim a mandate to govern from Sunday’s outcome, as said he was ready to head a coalition.
Scholz, 63, rejected Laschet’s bid, saying voters had made it clear that the conservatives “should go into the opposition”.
The finance minister also sought to play down the impact of drawn-out negotiations for a governing majority.
“You should know that Germany always has coalitions, and it was always stable,” he said.
From Paris, French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune stressed that France “has an interest to have a strong German government in place”, urging “swift” action from German parties.
The Kremlin said it hoped for “continuity” in Moscow’s ties with Berlin.