German SPD chief Scholz moves closer to succeeding Merkel as chancellor

Saturday, 2021-10-16 08:59:58
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Germany's Greens party co-leaders Robert Habeck and Annalena Baerbock and Social Democratic Party (SPD) top candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz listen to Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader Christian Lindner as he gives a statement following a meeting for exploratory talks for a possible new government coalition in Berlin, Germany, October 15, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
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The leader of Germany's centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Olaf Scholz, took a major step towards succeeding Angela Merkel as chancellor on Friday, announcing that he and the leaders of two smaller parties aimed to move into formal coalition talks.

The leaders of the SPD, who came first in last month's election, the Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) said exploratory talks had been constructive and allowed them to establish a road map for more formal negotiations.

Party committees are expected to vote over the weekend on whether to do so, bringing them closer to forming a "traffic light" alliance after their respective red, yellow and green colours - the first of its kind at federal level.

The Greens and FDP have kept open the option of turning to the conservatives, who have been in office for the last 16 years, should talks with the SPD stumble. The conservatives criticised the road map as contradictory and short on detail.

But polls show most voters back a traffic light alliance and even senior conservatives have given up on leading the next government.

"A new start is possible with the three parties coming together," Scholz told a news conference.

He later told RTL television: "We want to do so well that we get re-elected," adding that tax cuts for low earners and better wages were crucial to his vision.

"If parties that are so different could agree on joint challenges and solutions, then that would be an opportunity to unite our country," said Christian Lindner, leader of the FDP, the outsider in a marriage that includes two left-leaning parties.