German Social Democrats give Merkel coalition a chance

German Social Democrats give Merkel coalition a chance

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BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted on Friday to give their coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel a chance of survival, setting out relatively modest demands as their price for staying in government with the conservatives.
At a party conference, delegates appointed two critics of the coalition to jointly lead their party after months of turmoil and dismal performances in regional and European elections. Some party members want to quit government and rebuild in opposition.
In a show of hands, a large majority of delegates voted for conditions they will set out to Merkel’s party to stay in government, including tougher climate protection measures, a rise in the minimum wage and investment in infrastructure.
“This is a clear recommendation for how to act in the next weeks and months,” senior party member Anke Rehlinger told delegates.
The conservatives say they will not renegotiate the 2018 coalition deal but the relatively modest demands set out by the SPD’s new leaders appear to avoid a direct confrontation with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc.
A majority of delegates also voted explicitly against leaving the coalition.
Co-leader Saskia Esken said she was dubious about staying in the coalition but was ready to give it a chance.
“I was, and am, skeptical about the future of this grand coalition. But with this resolution, we give the coalition a realistic chance of continuing – no more, no less,” Esken said.
Merkel protege and CDU chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer congratulated the new leaders and said there was much to do.
“For that, we need a clear commitment to our common task. We are ready for that,” she tweeted.
Esken drew loud applause from delegates when she said the minimum wage must rise to at least 12 euros an hour from 9.19 euros.
Her co-leader, Norbert Walter-Borjans, outlined a vision of a socially just country with clean air, digitalised industry and first-class education. Achieving this must take priority over rigidly adhering to self-imposed fiscal rules, he said.

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