SPD leaders warn against German grand coalition mutiny

Dissent growing in party over terms of deal with Merkel’s CDU ahead of key meeting

Kevin Kühnert, the leader of the youth wing of Germany’s social democrat SPD party, during a press conference on Monday. He argues that the coalition deal with Angela Merkel’s CDU involves swallowing too many “very bitter pills”. Photograph:   Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

Kevin Kühnert, the leader of the youth wing of Germany’s social democrat SPD party, during a press conference on Monday. He argues that the coalition deal with Angela Merkel’s CDU involves swallowing too many “very bitter pills”. Photograph: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

 

Germany’s Social Democrat (SPD) leaders have warned that party rebels opposed to another grand coalition risk fresh elections with an unpredictable outcome.

Ahead of a key vote on Sunday, dissent is growing within the party over a preliminary agreement with acting chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) for the third CDU/SPD grand coalition since 2005.

Critics have gone on the road to make their case to delegates meeting at the weekend in Bonn to reject the deal. Now senior SPD leaders have launched a tour, too, in key western states with the greatest weight inside the party.

On Monday, SPD Bundestag leader Andrea Nahles attacked critics “for wilfully bad-mouthing the result”. Given the party’s disastrous result of 20.5 per cent last September, the worst in almost 70 years, she said party negotiators had achieved a lot in talks including agreement to steady pensions and build social housing.

“Those who bad-mouth this have to name the alternative, which is fresh elections,” said Ms Nahles.

Ahead of a meeting of western SPD members in Dortmund on Monday, Ms Nahles said she would “ask them if we are a party that does politics for talk shows or to implement much of what we have fought for for years”.

‘Very bitter pills’

A leading voice in the SPD revolt, party youth wing leader Kevin Kühnert, argues his party had to swallow too many “very bitter pills”, such as tighter immigration policy while the CDU blocked other key election promises, such as substantial health and tax reform.

“We are convinced that carrying on as usual in a grand coalition would endanger the existence of the Social Democrats, at least as a major party,” said Mr Kühnert.

Even if SPD leaders win a mandate from delegates on Sunday to launch formal talks with Dr Merkel and her allies, the final agreement struck will have to be ratified by a majority of all SPD members in a final vote.

A negative SPD vote at either stage of the process would rob Dr Merkel of her final coalition option, forcing her into an untested minority administration – which she has ruled out – or end in fresh elections.

Failure to secure party backing for the deal he negotiated would also, in all likelihood, spell the end of Mr Schulz’s 10-month spell as SPD leader.

Sensing an opportunity, leaders from Germany’s hard Left Party have floated the idea of creating a new party for itself and disillusioned left-wing SPD members.

Left Party Bundestag co-leader Sahra Wagenknecht said that “of course” she hopes for a new broad-based left-wing party.

“We have to think further and make the case for this, a spark has to catch,” she told Der Spiegel magazine.