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Cornered Merkel upbeat as seeks to revive grand coalition

From Reuters - January 7, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday she was optimistic her conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD) could cut a deal as they began five days of talks about reviving the grand coalition that has governed Germany since 2013.

Persuading the center-left SPD to team up with her is Merkels best bet for forming a stable government and extending her 12 years in office, after she failed in November to form an alliance with two smaller parties.

Arriving at SPD headquarters for talks more than three months after a national election, Merkel said the parties had much work to get through but intended to tackle it quickly, adding: I think it can succeed.

The SPD, which had said it would go into opposition after its worst election showing since 1933, reconsidered when Germanys president intervened.

But the center-left party, among whose membership opposition to a grand coalition re-run remains strong, has been playing hard-to-get.

A group called NoGroKo, meaning no grand coalition, has formed within its ranks to campaign against working with Merkel again, saying that would cost the SPD votes and make the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) the leading opposition party.

SPD leader Martin Schulz said that, while the outcome of the talks was unclear, his party would enter them constructively.

We wont draw any red lines - rather we want to push through as much red politics as possible, Schulz said, referring to the partys color.

He said five days should suffice to find out whether the parties had enough common ground to launch full-blown coalition talks. The SPD leadership is due to recommend on Friday whether or not to start those talks, and it will then be up to an SPD party congress on Jan. 21 to make a decision.

NOT SO GRAND?

A coalition between Merkels CDU/CSU alliance - which lost ground to the AfD in Septembers ballot -and the SPD has run Europes largest economy for eight of the last 12 years.

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