- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2013

ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER — Fresh off a landslide victory on Sunday’s election day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she has already reached out to the center-left Social Democratic Party as she tries to form a new governing coalition.

“We are, of course, open for talks and I have already had initial contact with the SPD chairman, who said the SPD must first hold a meeting of its leaders on Friday,” Mrs. Merkel told reporters after the election.

Mrs. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union received 41.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, but fell just short of having an absolute majority in government. That means Mrs. Merkel will have to find a coalition partner, but the negotiations may not be easy and could take months.

Her preferred partner, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, failed to gain a spot in the parliament for the first time in its more than half a century history.

That leaves Mrs. Merkel with two options. The most likely scenario is a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, which received 26 percent of the vote but could prove to be difficult to negotiate with.

As the second-largest party, the SPD can offer the chancellor more support in parliament. That will be important in the coming years with the ongoing eurozone crisis and another needed bailout package for Greece.

“Germany needs broad support to resolve all these issues looming,” said Torsten Oltmanns, a political expert at Munich’s Roland Berger consulting firm.

But the SPD is still bitter about the last time they worked together in a grand coalition from 2005 to 2009, and is expected to demand a larger role in a new government in exchange for their cooperation. That means current Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who is well respected, could lose his job to make room for a Social Democrat in the post. They could also demand control of other key ministerial positions such as foreign minister.

If negotiations with the Social Democrats fall through, Mrs. Merkel could turn to the even further-left Green Party. It would be an awkward tandem, because the CDU and Greens are on opposite ends of the political spectrum on many key issues. But the Greens are desperate to get back into government, and because of their poor showing in the elections, Mrs. Merkel would have a stronger negotiating hand with them and could demand more power than she could in a grand coalition with the SPD.

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