New edition of “grand coalition” looming as talks draw to a close

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In the afternoon things were still looking promising for the new, old grand coalition, as development minister Müller announced a breakthrough in negotiations for his department. Later in the evening however, the talks seemed to reach an impasse again.

According to Müller, himself representative of the conservative CSU (Christian-Democratic Union, the CDU’s sister party) and development minister in Merkel’s cabinet, it is agreed that the ministry’s budget should grow at the same rate as that of the defence ministry. It is furthermore quite possible indeed that Müller will get to keep his job and therefore be able to distribute the same money himself.

In a press interview at the party headquarters, The CSU politician labelled the negotiations ambititous, and pointed to the fact that more than 120 dossiers were discussed, ranging from topics such as Afghanistan to migration and the refugee crisis. The chancellor herself pointed out that a lot of controvesial issues had been addressed, but that nothing had been decided yet.

Labour law and health care remain controversial issues

The centre-left SPD continues to push for agreements that align with what was previously decided at its own party conference: a reduction of fixed-term employment contracts and an end to the two-tier healthcare system. CDU and CSU oppose any such changes to the system. While draft versions for potential compromises – and even for a coalition treaty – already exist, nothing is confirmed from either side. Politicians from both sides do however affirm that a succesful end is almost in sight. SPD leader Martin Schulz called this looming day zero the “decision day”, whereas CSU politician Alexander Dobrindt referred to it as “the hour of truth”. In what might seem as a calculated political move, both parties aim to wrap up negotiations just before the beginning of carnival season on Thursday. Accordingly, the final round of negoatations is to convene on Wednesday, with the 15 key figures of all parties meeting for a long, final round of talks.

Has #Nogroko passed its zenith?

The agreement of the three parties, however, will not be the last hurdle to take in order for the new edition of the grand coalition. Since the Social Democrats decided to give their members the final say over their party’s participation in the coalition, 450,000 SPD members will vote on the agreement put in front of them. SPD’s Environment minister Hendricks however, deems it unlikely that a majority of members should oppose the agreement. According to her, the #NoGroko campaign, a campaign against a new edition of the grand coalition (“Groko”) spearheaded by the party’s youth faction leader Kevin Kühnert, has already passed its zenith. In reality, it is unclear how the vote will turn out. At any rate, it can certainly be assumed that the risk of the coalition agreement being turned down by its own members has been applied as a bargaining chip by SPD leaders. This message seems to have also reached Chancellor Merkel, who speaks of “painful compromises” which will have to be made and which she is ready for.

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