German SPD minister ‘positive’ as coalition vote result looms

Result of postal vote to determine if party will support new agreement is due on Sunday

German environment minister Barbara Hendricks and agriculture minister Christian Schmidt at a joint press conference on Tuesday in Berlin. Photograph:  Bernd Von Jutrczenka/AFP/Getty Images

German environment minister Barbara Hendricks and agriculture minister Christian Schmidt at a joint press conference on Tuesday in Berlin. Photograph: Bernd Von Jutrczenka/AFP/Getty Images

 

Germany’s Social Democrat (SPD) environment minister said on Thursday she expects party members to support a new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives by a margin of 60 per cent.

The SPD’s 464,000 members are voting in a postal ballot on whether to endorse their party leadership’s decision to renew for another four years the “grand coalition” that took office in 2013. The result of the postal ballot is due on Sunday.

“I expect it to turn out positively,” environment minister Barbara Hendricks told a news conference in Berlin. “I expect around 60 per cent (approval).”

A poll released on Wednesday showed a narrow majority – 56 per cent – of SPD voters in favour of a re-run of the grand coalition. However, the poll surveyed a far broader group than the party members taking part in the decisive ballot.

The conservative bloc, comprising Dr Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), only embarked on coalition talks with the SPD after negotiations with two smaller parties failed last November.

Senior officials from the CDU, CSU and SPD plan to meet later on Thursday – before the SPD ballot has ended – to iron out outstanding issues on the formation of a coalition government, party sources said.

The SPD members’ ballot runs until Friday.

The CDU approved the coalition deal with the SPD on Monday, bringing closer a fourth term for Dr Merkel as well as an end to the country’s political limbo. The chancellor said she hoped the SPD would also back the deal.

CSU leader Horst Seehofer said on Wednesday tha tGermany should hold a new election if SPD members vote against a new coalition with her conservative bloc.

Dr Merkel has been more guarded on the issue of a minority government since November, when she said after the breakdown of coalition talks with the business-friendly Free Democrats and environmentalist Greens that she would prefer new elections to leading one. – Reuters