Germany's Merkel to begin coalition talks next week

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives will begin coalition talks with the Free Democrats (FDP).

Germany's Merkel to begin coalition talks next week
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives will begin coalition talks on Monday with the Free Democrats (FDP) to determine the shape and policies of the new German government.

The centre-right partners, who last ruled together between 1982 and 1998 under Helmut Kohl, hope to seal an agreement so they can begin work by the time the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, convenes on Oct. 27.

"Talks will be conducted quickly," said FDP leader Guido Westerwelle, who is expected to become foreign minister in the new government after his party saw its support surge to a record high in an election on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Social Democrats (SPD), who ruled with Merkel for the past four years, saw support plummet to a post-war low, leaving them searching for a new leader who can revitalise the party in opposition.

Wanted: SPD leader

Merkel's former coalition partners, the SPD, began their search for a new leadership in opposition by announcing the resignation of General Secretary Hubertus Heil on Tuesday.

Both the left and right wings of the party are positioning themselves for a change of leader if, as expected, 69-year-old Franz Muentefering steps down as chairman.

Outgoing foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who led the SPD's bid to oust Merkel, offered to head the party's parliamentary group just hours after admitting defeat.

Despite receiving prominent backing to take on the job of party chairman too, he said on Tuesday he would not stand for that post, an SPD source said.

As one of the architects of welfare cuts enacted under former SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the 53-year-old is a divisive figure for some in the party.

The SPD was expected to elect Steinmeier head of the parliamentary group later on Tuesday.

Party sources said outgoing SPD environment minister Sigmar Gabriel was leading the race to succeed Muentefering, but that no decision had yet been reached.

Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit is touted as a likely candidate although the SPD suffered big losses in the capital on Sunday.

If the party cannot agree, a compromise could be found in the shape of Jens Boehrnsen, the little known mayor of Bremen, the only state in which the SPD won the most votes.

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Eylül 2009, 09:02
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