Angela Merkel’s Party Seeks Alliance With the Greens to Cling on To Power

North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) candidate for Chancellor Armin Laschet and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talk prior to the party leadership meeting on September 13, 2021 at the CDU's headquatrers in Berlin. (Photo by Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KAY NIETFELD/POOL/AFP via …
KAY NIETFELD/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

BERLIN (AP) – Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc sought to win over the environmentalist Greens for a possible coalition Tuesday as the parties that hope for a share of power in Germany wrapped up their first meetings on forming a new government.

The Union bloc’s only hope of keeping the top job after its candidate for the chancellorship, North Rhine-Westphalia state governor Armin Laschet, led it to its worst-ever result in the Sept. 26 parliamentary election, is a coalition with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats.

Those two parties held separate exploratory meetings Sunday with the center-left Social Democrats of outgoing Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who narrowly won the election and appears to have the best chances of succeeding Merkel. The Union has met the Free Democrats.

Laschet said his delegation had a “good exchange” with the Greens. “We think such an alliance has a breadth in society that really makes it possible to modernize and move forward the country in the coming years,” he said, adding that differences are “not insurmountable.”

Negotiators have said little of substance about the talks, with all vowing to keep their conversations confidential after Merkel’s attempt four years ago to form a coalition with the Free Democrats and Greens bogged down in details and leaks. Still, a senior Free Democrat on Monday accused the Union of leaking apparent details of those two parties’ meeting.

The Free Democrats eventually pulled the plug on the 2017 talks. That paved the way for a rerun of the “grand coalition” of the Union and Social Democrats, Germany’s traditional big parties, which has run the country for 12 of Merkel’s 16 years in power.

A repeat of that often bad-tempered alliance, this time under Scholz, is mathematically possible this time, too, but no one wants it.

Either the Greens, who traditionally lean left, or the Free Democrats, who have tended to ally with the Union, face the choice of choosing to negotiate with a party from another ideological camp.

Questions have been raised about whether the Union is currently willing or able to lead a new government, given that the election’s result weakened Laschet badly.

The Greens’ leaders were tightlipped on the Union’s hopes of further talks and other details. Co-leader Robert Habeck said the Greens and the Free Democrats would each mull the results of the first meetings “and we will take time for that today and tomorrow.”

Habeck refused to comment on the state of the Union or on rumors that it might replace Laschet.

“Of course, it’s always the case that a government works particularly well when authority within a party is clear and set, but that’s a general statement,” he said.

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