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Scholz bullish on left-leaning coalition after German election win

Olaf Scholz, the leader of Germany's centre-left SPD, expressed confidence on Monday that he would be able to form a new coalition with two smaller parties, after 16 years of government under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlin, 28 September 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Olaf Scholz, the leader of Germany’s centre-left SPD, expressed confidence on Monday that he would be able to form a new coalition with two smaller parties, after 16 years of government under conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Three parties have been strengthened, therefore this is the clear mandate that the voters have formulated,” Scholz said at SPD headquarters on Monday, referring to his SPD, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

The CDU/CSU bloc has “not only lost, but they have received the message from voters that they should go into opposition,” Scholz said.

The three parties that Scholz wants in his coalition have “enough intersections” to form a government and coalition talks should proceed with “pragmatism and calm,” he added.

Conservative leader Armin Laschet, meanwhile, is clinging to his constitutional right to also form a coalition government despite coming second to the SPD in terms of vote share. Laschet’s conservatives recorded their worst electoral result in Germany’s post-war history on Sunday.

“None of the major parties have a clear government mandate,” Laschet said at a press conference on Monday, adding that the times when the two largest parties captured more than 30 per cent of the vote respectively were long gone.

“Only the person who manages to bring together opposites can become chancellor,” he said, referring to the fact that the Greens and the FDP have vastly different political agendas.

Laschet’s bid to form a coalition has caused tensions within the ranks of the conservative alliance, with the powerful CSU leader Markus Soeder saying that the bloc’s poor result did not entitle it to lead a government.

He added, however, that out of a sense of obligation to its supporters, the conservative should still offer to enter into talks with other parties.

Several people at a meeting of senior CSU officials in Munich criticized the CDU, and Laschet in particular, for mistakes during their troubled campaign, sources said.

Earlier this year, Bavarian state premier Soeder lost out to Laschet in the race to be the conservative bloc’s candidate for chancellor.

Economics Minister Peter Altmaier, a CDU politician who had supported Soeder to be the bloc’s candidate, recommended “a dose of humility” for his party and said they must listen to the people, in comments to the Rheinische Post paper.

Altmaier said it would be wrong to “rule anything out” when it comes to coalition talks to form a government, and that there were several different possible coalition combinations.

Representatives of the Greens and the FDP were expected to come together to find common ground ahead of formal coalition talks with the two larger parties.

A final vote count in the early hours of Monday showed the SPD capturing 25.7 per cent, its best result in years, while the CDU/CSU bloc fell to a record low of 24.1 per cent.

The Greens and the FDP took 14.8 per cent and 11.5 per cent of the vote, respectively.

Next came the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on 10.3 per cent. The anti-immigration, populist party will not be involved in coalition negotiations as no other parties will agree to work them.

The hard-left Die Linke won 4.9 per cent and scraped into parliament under a quirk of electoral law.

Normally coming under the 5-per-cent mark would mean a party is excluded from the Bundestag. But because three Die Linke candidates won outright in their constituencies, the party managed to enter parliament as the smallest party.

The next Cabinet will be the first in 16 years not led by Merkel.

The historic transition to the post-Merkel era is expected to take weeks or even months – during that time, Merkel remains as caretaker chancellor.

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