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Left-wing German Social Democrats lobby against Merkel alliance

From Reuters - January 13, 2018

BERLIN (Reuters) - Left-wing German Social Democrats lobbied party members on Saturday against joining Chancellor Angela Merkels conservatives in a re-run of their 2013-2017 alliance, a week before delegates are asked to back a coalition blueprint.

The push-back from the left wing of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) came a day after its leaders urged members to swallow their doubts and endorse a deal to renew a grand coalition with Merkels conservatives for another four years.

The SPD leaders face a tough task to convince members to approve the deal at a Jan. 21 party congress and again in a postal vote at the conclusion of formal coalition negotiations.

The leader of the SPDs Jusos youth branch, Kevin Kuehnert, began a Germany-wide No-GroKo tour to lobby party delegates to vote against the grand coalition. Others on the partys left took to the airwaves to criticize the coalition blueprint.

A general change in policy is not happening, and a strengthening of the right wing must be avoided, Hilde Mattheis, who leads the left-wing DL21 SPD group, told Deutschland funk radio.

Many in the SPD rank-and-file are worried about allowing the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to become the largest opposition party in parliament - a scenario that would unfold if their party joins the conservatives in coalition.

The SPD would always be a bulwark against the right, said Mattheis.

To win over the SPD, Merkel agreed in the coalition blueprint to 5.95 billion euros($7.26 billion) of investment in education, research and digitalization by 2021, expanded child care rights, and a pledge to strengthen Europes cohesion with increased German contributions to the EU budget.

But some Social Democrats believe the deal lacked sufficient concessions to their party. They also fear a new grand coalition would further diminish the identity of the SPD, which suffered its worst result in the September election since 1933.

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