Marathon talks on forming a coalition government in Germany have collapsed, plunging the eurozone’s largest economy into a political crisis and casting doubt on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s fourth term.
Germany’s pro-business Free Democrats Party (FDP) unexpectedly called off more than four weeks of coalition talks with Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the left-leaning Greens as they failed to hammer out their differences over a range of issues, particularly immigration policies.
Merkel, who has been in power for 12 years and known as a skilled negotiator, described the failure as a setback on Monday and apologized for the chaos.
We “could have reached an agreement” despite our differences in views, but “couldn’t find any solution today,” she said.
Merkel was forced to enter the make or break talks with rival factions after her Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Bavarian sister party, Christian Social Union (CSU), lost parliamentary majority despite winning the September elections.
“As chancellor, I will do everything to ensure that this country is well managed in the difficult weeks to come,” she added.
The failed coalition talks leave Merkel with three options: To form a minority government, approach her previous coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), or call for new elections.
Merkel will now remain acting chancellor, but failure to prevent fresh elections is not without peril for the chancellor as her party may decide she is not the best candidate to lead them into a new electoral campaign.
The chancellor said she would brief German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier later on Monday about the outcome of the three-way talks.
“I will consult with the president on how to move forward,” Merkel said. “It is a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany.”
Christian Lindner, leader of the FDP, said on Sunday that his party was withdrawing from the talks as the three would-be partners had irreconcilable differences, and that they could not find common ground on key issues, including migration, government spending, tax cuts and climate.
“Today there was no progress but rather there were setbacks because specific compromises were questioned,” Lindner said.
“It is better not to rule than to rule the wrong way. Goodbye!” the FDP head added.
The FDP’s withdrawal came after the negotiators missed a deadline of 6:00 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Sunday without a breakthrough in their discussions.