German coalition talks could get going by mid-Oct – CDU’s Spahn

BERLIN, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Germany’s political parties should be clear by the middle of October about who will take part in formal coalition talks after the Social Democrats narrowly won Sunday’s national election, the deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats said on Thursday.

“It must be clear by the middle of October, which direction we are going in,” Jens Spahn, health minister and deputy CDU leader, told German national radio Deutschlandfunk.

Both the centre-left SPD and Merkel’s conservative bloc, which slumped to a record low result in the vote, will need the centre-right Free Democrats (FDP) and environmental Greens as partners to get a parliamentary majority for a coalition government.

The Greens said on Wednesday they had held a good first round of exploratory talks with the FDP, though these two parties, known as “kingmakers”, were at odds over which larger partner to join in a new coalition.

The Greens favour a three-way tie-up with the liberals and SPD, while the FDP would prefer the two smaller parties to join forces with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc.

Spahn said it was not the time to discuss whether the conservatives’ candidate to succeed Merkel, Armin Laschet, should remain in office, noting that the party had agreed that Laschet should lead exploratory coalition talks, along with Bavarian premier Markus Soeder.

Spahn blamed both the election campaign management and the lack of unity of the CSU and CDU for the election defeat: “This has to be dealt with. … We all share responsibility for that,” he said. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Jane Merriman)