Merkel's party softens on tax in search for ally
By Frank Zeller, AFPBERLIN--German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, who triumphed in elections but must now find a coalition partner, Wednesday offered a sweetener to vanquished rivals who fear a dangerous alliance with the powerful leader.
September 26, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble signaled that Merkel's party may soften its opposition to the tax rises demanded on the campaign trail by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) to pay for welfare and public spending.
“We will have to see how the talks go,” said Schaeuble when asked about the tax issue by the Zeit weekly, suggesting Merkel's team is ready for compromises in what may be weeks if not months of horse-trading on policy issues and ministry posts.
The veteran minister said that he personally did not see the need for tax rises but also reached out, saying “if the future partners for a future government show a modicum of sense, we will surely be able to reach an agreement.”
Schaeuble urged speed in talks on who will jointly rule the EU's biggest economy, warning that “since important decisions are looming in European politics, including on a banking union, I would prefer that we reach agreement quickly.”
The SPD, smarting after their ballot defeat last Sunday, has made clear it is no hurry to again jump into bed with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after emerging in bad shape from such an alliance in 2005-09.
If the SPD took a beating from governing in the shadow of popular Merkel, then so did her partners in the latest term, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who faced an electoral catastrophe and crashed out of parliament altogether.
News weekly Der Spiegel wrote that the ill fortunes of Merkel's former political partners have led her fearful rivals to dub her “the Black Widow.”
'The ball is in Merkel's court'
Grim-faced SPD leaders this week insisted that now “the ball is in Merkel's court” on building bridges, while stressing that first a Berlin rank-and-file party meeting Friday will discuss where the party should go from here.
Many grassroots members say the 150-year-old SPD should spare itself the humiliation of again playing second fiddle to Merkel and instead regroup and wage battle against her.
“There is no shame in us going into opposition,” said Hannelore Kraft, the popular premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state who is seen as a potential future chancellor-candidate.