By Ayhan Simsek
Germany’s Social Democrats approved on Sunday the start of formal coalition negotiations with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, after a heated debate at the party's extraordinary congress in the western city of Bonn.
Some 362 delegates voted in favor of entering coalition negotiations with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc to form a “grand coalition” government, while 279 delegates voted against.
The preliminary talks between Social Democratic Party (SPD) Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) ended on Jan. 12, with a tentative agreement on major policy areas, including foreign policy, migration, health insurance and tax cuts.
While the SPD leader Martin Schulz backed the tentative deal and proposed entering formal coalition negotiations, the party’s traditional left-wing and the youth organization Jusos opposed a “grand coalition” government with the Christian Democrats.
Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance emerged as the largest bloc in the parliament following the election, but they failed to secure an absolute majority.
The SPD suffered its worst result in decades but remained the second-largest party in parliament.
Many Social Democrats have blamed their poor showing on the party's membership of the previous coalition.