Merkel still faces hurdles as coalition talks set to begin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel still faced a bumpy road ahead for government formation as Social Democrats (SPD) appeared to be divided on the issue despite a ‘yes’ vote for coalition talks on Sunday.

At a party conference in Bonn, SPD chief Martin Schulz (pictured) was able to garner the support of 56.4% of the delegates to team up with the Merkel government again to avoid fresh elections which may go against both SPD and Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and affect the political future of Merkel and Schulz.

Of the 642 delegates attending the Bonn conference, 362 voted for coalition talks with CDU and their Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).

The close vote, however, indicated growing reluctance among SPD members to come under the shadow of Merkel rule again.

Schulz said talks with CDU are necessary to sort out differences on labour law, refugee family reunions and a radical restructuring of health insurance.

Coalition talks may start as early as this week. Merkel wants a new coalition government in place by Easter. But she can become the chancellor only if SPD’s grassroots members approve any coalition deal that their party and the CDU-CSU may reach during talks.

An SPD party vote rejecting the coalition accord could end Schulz’s year-long leadership of the SPD and jeopardize Merkel’s political future.

Before coming back to SPD to discuss new coalition, Merkel had made an unsuccessful attempt in November to team up with Free Democrats and Greens.