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Europe

Merkel open to coalition talks with centre-left

© Photo: AFP

Video by Kyle G. Brown , Halla Mohieddeen

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-23

Angela Merkel said on Monday she was “open” to coalition talks with her centre-left rivals, the Social Democratic Party, following her party’s stunning victory in Sunday night’s general election in which she won a historic 41.5%.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she was "open" to coalition negotiations with her Social Democrat rivals, a day after she resoundingly won elections but lost her current allies.

"We are open for discussions," Merkel said, adding she had already had initial contact with the Social Democrats' leadership, but that she did not rule out talks with the ecologist Greens.

SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel said that his party was also “open” to talks with Merkel on forming a government.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) scored its best result in 23 years in elections on Sunday, winning 41.5 percent of the vote and finishing only five seats short of an absolute majority in the lower house.

The resounding victory reaffirmed Merkel’s position as Europe’s most powerful leader and one of the few who enjoys strong support from their electorate.

True to her style, 59-year-old Merkel pledged that "we will use the result responsibly and carefully," but stressed that she intends to serve out her full term till 2017, as jubilant supporters yelled "Angie, Angie, Angie!”

FRANCE 24 Chief Foreign Editor Robert Parsons described Merkel’s victor from Berlin as “astonishing”.

“This is a far bigger victory than anyone had anticipated,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest triumphs in post-war Germany, and at a time when leaders all over Europe have been falling like ninepins as a consequence of the financial crisis.”

German news website Spiegel Online ran with the headline "The Merkel Republic”, adding that “Germany has finally become Angela Merkel-Land”.

Coalition shock

However, there was bitter disappointment for Merkel’s allies in the outgoing government, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who suffered a humiliating exit from the Bundestag, the first time they will be absent from the chamber in the post-war era.

Merkel has already ruled with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), when between 2005 and 2009 she led a mostly-successful “grand coalition”. The SPD came second in Sunday’s poll with 25.6 percent, slightly above its worst post-war result of 2009. Its candidate Peer Steinbrueck said that his party did not achieve the result they wanted, adding that “the ball is in Merkel's court".

A Merkel coalition with the ecologist and left-leaning Greens, who won 8.4 percent, is seen as unlikely as both parties in the campaign nixed such an uneasy alliance given their wide policy differences.

Merkel, a pastor’s daughter and former scientific researcher from Hamburg, described her party’s victory on Sunday as “a super result”. She said that Germany will face “many tasks, at home, in Europe and in the world” over the next four years and that her party “will do everything to make them successful years for Germany”.

The CDU’s campaign banked on Merkel's image as a calm, sensible and reassuring eurozone crisis manager, along with her record of keeping a strong economy and low unemployment.

“The CDU’s campaign was all pinned to the personality of Merkel and her popularity,” Parsons reported from Berlin. “There’s a sense here that Merkel has provided people with the safety they’ve been looking for; people talk of good governance,” he said.

European support

Congratulations poured in from across Europe on Monday, while the euro firmed in Asian trade, with investors cheering the "continuity" Merkel provided.

French President François Hollande congratulated Merkel in a phone call in which both agreed "to continue their close cooperation to meet the challenges of the European project".

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta hailed the "good result for the European Union," noting that the eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had failed to garner enough support to enter parliament, with less than 5 percent of the vote.

Britain's David Cameron said in a tweet that he was "looking forward to continuing to work closely" with Merkel.

In Berlin, observers expected days or even weeks of tough negotiations over policies and ministry posts between potential partners.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-23

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