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German coalition partner questions Merkel’s leadership

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) vice-chairman, Olaf Scholz, has criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership skills ahead of fresh talks on a possible “grand coalition” that would include the SPD.

Scholz said in an interview with Stern magazine published on Wednesday that Merkel had shown “blatant leadership weakness” in earlier government coalition negotiations.

Earlier three-way talks to form a coalition government failed after the pro-business Free Democrats Party (FDP) pulled out of negotiations with Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc and the left-leaning Greens, citing irreconcilable differences on various issues.

SPD had refused to participate in those talks. It later agreed to join, however.

“Your political style is obviously reaching its limits,” Scholz said in remarks addressed to Merkel, adding that he doubted “whether the CDU chairman had the strength to reach an agreement.”

Scholz further cast doubt about the outcome of the grand coalition talks when he said, “The grand coalition is an option. There is no automaticity that it can come about.”

He warned that because of the difficult political situation, the road to a new government was long.

If the coalition talks failed, other options would be to form a minority government or to hold new elections.

Earlier, Merkel had informed German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that she preferred to hold fresh elections rather than a minority government.

Steinmeier, however, called on German political factions to find common ground to form a coalition government.

He asked SPD leader Martin Schulz to get together with Merkel and CSU Chairman Horst Seehofer on Thursday, urging them to explore ways on forming a government.

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