German parties to start three-way talks on coalition led by Social Democrats


Germany’s Greens and liberals are to launch talks with the Social Democrats on forming a coalition government, in a move that could end the centre-right’s 16-year hold on power in Europe’s largest economy.

The talks increase the chances that Olaf Scholz, finance minister, will succeed Angela Merkel when she quits the political stage later this year after four terms as chancellor.

FDP leader Christian Lindner said he had already proposed to Scholz, the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, that the three parties start exploratory talks as early as Thursday.

An SPD-Green-liberal coalition has been on the cards since last month’s national election, which was narrowly won by the Social Democrats while the CDU/CSU slumped to its worst-ever result.

It would be the first three-party coalition in Germany’s post-war history and mark a break with the dominance of the Christian Democrats, who have governed Europe’s economic powerhouse for 52 of the past 72 years.

Since the election the Greens and FDP have held talks with each other, and separately with the SPD and the CDU/CSU, to explore what kind of coalition to aim for.

The FDP, a liberal, pro-free market party, favoured a tie-up with the CDU/CSU and Greens — an alliance known as “Jamaica” in Germany because the parties’ black, green and yellow colours match those of the Caribbean country’s flag.

“We have most in common with the CDU/CSU when it comes to policy, and that was confirmed in our talks,” Lindner told reporters on Wednesday. “In policy terms, Jamaica is for us the viable option.”

But he said a “public discussion” had broken out regarding the CDU/CSU’s “unity and will to govern” — a reference to the fierce internal attacks on CDU leader Armin Laschet since the party’s election defeat and the intensifying speculation that he could face a challenge to his leadership.

The Greens have made it clear from the start that they leaned towards a “traffic-light” coalition of SPD (red), Green and FDP (yellow). Robert Habeck, co-leader of the Greens, said on Wednesday that his party was not “wholly ruling out Jamaica”, but wanted to explore the option of a traffic-light coalition first.

Green co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the party had “come to the conclusion that it makes sense, in view of the similarities we’ve been able to ascertain in our bilateral talks, to hold more in-depth talks with the FDP and SPD, and that’s what we’re proposing to the FDP”.

At a press conference less than an hour later, Lindner said the FDP had decided to accept the Greens’ proposal. “The next step is now an exchange of ideas between three parties,” he added.

But he warned that the FDP would only join a “government of the centre, which strengthens the value of freedom and sets a real impulse for the renewal of our country”.