Germans voted in a national election on Sunday that seemed very close to the call, with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) posing a strong challenge to retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.
Merkel has been in power since 2005 but plans to step down after the election, making the vote an era-changing event to determine the future course of Europe’s largest economy.
A fractured voter means that after the election, the major parties will voice each other before starting more formal coalition talks, which could take months, leaving 67-year-old Merkel in the role of caretaker.
With Merkel campaigning in her home constituency of Aachen, conservative candidate Armin said on Saturday that a left-wing coalition led by the SPD along with the Greens and the hard-left Linke party would destabilize Europe.
“They want to get us out of NATO, they don’t want this alliance, they want another republic,” said Lechet, 60. “I don’t want Linke to be in the next government.”
Running against Lachette is Olaf Scholzoff SPD, finance minister in Merkel’s right-left coalition, who won all three televised debates between the leading candidates.
Scholz, 63, has not ruled out an alliance with the Left, but said NATO membership was a red line for the SPD.
Following a domestic-focused election campaign, Berlin’s allies in Europe and beyond may have to wait for months before they can see whether the new German government is ready to engage to that extent on foreign issues.
A divided political landscape means a three-way alliance is likely. Final opinion polls gave the Social Democrats a narrow lead, but conservatives have narrowed the gap in recent days and many voters were still undecided.
The most likely coalition scenarios see either the SPD or the conservative CDU/CSU bloc – whichever comes first – forming a coalition with the Greens and the Liberal Free Democrats (FDP).
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Scholz told supporters in his own constituency in Potsdam, near Berlin, that he was still hopeful that the SPD and the Greens would win a majority without a third partner to rule alone.
“The stronger the SPD, the easier it is to form a coalition,” Scholz said. “I don’t know if it will be possible, but it is possible to form an SPD-Greens alliance for example. I believe it is possible. We will see.”
Conservatives and the FDP both reject a European “debt union” and want to ensure that the United EU borrows to finance the bloc’s coronavirus recovery package. The SPD has spoken of taking steps towards fiscal union.
The Greens support a common European fiscal policy to support investments in the environment, research, infrastructure and education.
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