Merkel and Laschet congratulate rival Olaf Scholz on election win

Merkel and her would-be successor Armin Laschet congratulate rival Olaf Scholz on his German election win as kingmaker parties meet for coalition talks

  • The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly beat Laschet’s conservatives in Sunday’s election with 25.7% of the vote over the conservatives’ 24.1%
  • SPD chancellor Olaf Scholz is now set to take power and succeed the outgoing Merkel unless Laschet can cobble together a coalition government 
  • The Green Party and the Liberal Free Democrats (FDP) are now seen as kingmakers despite being at opposite ends of the political spectrum
  • The two smaller parties will meet with both the SDP and the conservatives over the weekend to discuss their respective plans for a coalition
  • Laschet’s political career likely hinges on his ability to pull off a coalition 

Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her would-be successor Armin Laschet have congratulated Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the rival Social Democrats on his Sunday election victory, as Merkel’s conservatives remain in disarray after the vote.

It comes after CDU leader Armin Laschet was criticised for not publicly congratulating Scholz after Germany’s conservative Party suffered their first national election defeat since 2002. 

The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly beat Laschet’s conservatives in Sunday’s election, leaving Merkel’s replacement scrambling to organise a coalition with the Greens and Liberal Free Democrats (FDP) as his political career teeters on a precipice.

The SPD, Germany’s oldest party, won 25.7% of the vote in Sunday’s election, ahead of 24.1% for the CDU/CSU – the conservative bloc’s worst federal result. 

Laschet now faces an uphill battle to save his career, and could only prevent Scholz from taking power if he is able to pull off the formation of a coalition government to wrest the chancellery from his rival in the coming days.

Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister and SPD Chancellor, has been congratulated by Angela Merkel after his Social Democratic Party took a narrow win in Germany’s national election on Sunday

Merkel’s would-be successor Armin Laschet (left) has yet to publicly congratulate his rival Scholz after Germany’s Conservative Party suffered their first national election defeat since 2002

Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc slumped to its worst-ever result in a national election on Sunday, put the keys to power in the hands of two opposition parties – the pro-business Free Democrats and the Green Party

Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Green Party are now seen as kingmakers despite their considerable political differences on issues from finance to climate protection. 

The two smaller parties are reportedly planning to meet with both the SDP and the Conservative bloc over the weekend to discuss plans for a three-way coalition after their leaders came together for an uncharacteristic meeting on Tuesday.

FDP’s secretary general Volker Wissing said on Wednesday he could reveal nothing about the parties’ talks, but confirmed that a bigger group of people from both parties would meet again on Friday before going on to share preliminary talks with the conservatives on Saturday, and the SPD on Sunday.

 Wissing’s comments came after a smiling selfie of FDP and Green leaders together at an initial meeting went viral and became the subject of jokes. 

‘We are looking for common ground and bridges across divisions. And even finding some,’ read the caption below the photo in which they were all smiling. ‘Exciting times.’ 

Commentators have argued that the post, which was shared by all four individuals across social media, showed that the parties were determined to create a narrative in which they would be a central, binding force at the heart of any alliance.

But neither side has tried to disguise the scale of the challenge, as they met for talks to bridge the gap between views at opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Asked on Monday about any similarities between the leaders, co-leader of Germany’s Greens and the party’s candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock said: ‘I am around the same age as Christian Lindner (FDP party co-leader), and he and Robert Habeck (Greens co-leader) are both men.’

Meanwhile, several senior Conservative Party members have signalled that Laschet’s days may be numbered following the shock election result on Sunday.

Conservative Economy Minister Peter Altmaier called for a ‘swift realignment in terms of personnel and content’ ahead of a crunch meeting between conservative lawmakers on Tuesday. 

Laschet reportedly faced some harsh criticism at the meeting.

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairman Armin Laschet talked to media as he left the Reichstag building on Tuesday following a meeting of conservative lawmakers in which he reportedly faced harsh criticism

One CDU lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that if Laschet (pictured) could not pull off a coalition with the Greens and FDP, he should go

‘It was a factual discussion with a wide range of views, but there was certainly some disappointment. Some things just have to be said openly,’ said Ralph Brinkhaus, who was re-appointed head of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group for six months.

Brinkhaus brushed off questions about Laschet’s longer term future, and said Merkel’s would-be replacement would still be involved in any exploratory talks on a coalition.

But he stressed that while the conservatives were open to talks, for now it was up to the Greens and FDP to decide whether they want to form a coalition, and Laschet’s political career likely hangs in the balance as the CDU/CSU continues talks with other parties.

Markus Soeder, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to the CDU, also took a swipe at Laschet.

Soeder, who was beaten to the conservative chancellor candidacy in April after a public contest with Laschet, said there was only a small possibility the SPD would not manage to form a government.

‘At the moment Olaf Scholz clearly has the best chances of being chancellor,’ he affirmed.

A survey by pollster Civey for the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper showed that 71% of Germans think it is wrong for Laschet to lay claim to the chancellery, while one CDU lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that if Laschet could not pull off a coalition with the Greens and FDP, he should go.

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