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Last chance? Merkel maneuvers for coalition re-run with SPD

From Reuters - January 3, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will put her reputation as Europes consummate consensus-builder on the line on Wednesday, when she launches a second bid to form a coalition government after weeks of sniping between its would-be partners.

Seeking a fourth term in office, Merkel saw her authority weakened in a national election in September, when support for her conservatives was eroded by the far right.

She is now under increasing pressure to reach a deal with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), which also lost ground in the election, but the two sides have bickered over a range of issues, notably immigration and taxation.

At a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Merkel will try to build trust with SPD leader Martin Schulz and the head of Bavarias CSU conservatives, Horst Seehofer, by agreeing a structure for talks that are due to start on Sunday and could lead to official coalition negotiations in a few weeks.

Having failed before Christmas to form a coalition with the Greens and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), Merkel is now leading an interim government with the SPD that is keeping things ticking over in Europes biggest economy.

Merkels CDU/CSU alliance ruled in a grand coalition with the SPD from 2013 to 2017 and, with investors fearing a protracted power vacuum that could delay reforms in Germany and the European Union, she is pressing for a re-run of that arrangement.

But the SPD has shown reluctance, with some of its members favoring a looser cooperation agreement or supporting a minority government.

VERBAL SHENANIGANS

The two blocs are at odds on issues from healthcare and immigration to Europe and pensions and, if no deal is done, Merkels future as chancellor would be thrown into doubt with new elections a distinct prospect.

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