Merkel struggles to clinch government accord

Angela Merkel being sworn in as Federal Chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats had still not reached an agreement on formal coalition talks as more than 18 hours of exploratory closed-door discussions continued before the expected Friday deadline.

Early on Thursday, Schulz and Merkel said that they were going to finish talks on building a coalition.

In their joint blueprint, the parties agreed on key policy outlines - to join European Union partner France in a push to "strengthen and reform" the eurozone, to limit the influx of asylum seekers to Germany to around 200,000 a year, and to refrain from tax hikes given the healthy state of state coffers. Unable to win the support of another party for a governing coalition yet, Merkel is now staring down the possibility that the monthslong standoff may force a new election entirely.

A survey published by Focus magazine found that only 30 percent of Germans favour a return of the grand coalition, while 34 percent prefer new elections.

The center-left SPD is likely to prove the biggest obstacle - or more specifically, the leftist wing of that party, which was already skeptical of allowing the SPD to enter another grand coalition.

They stressed the crucial role Franco-German cooperation will play in European integration, saying a renewal of the EU can only succeed if Germany and France "work together with all their strength".

The chancellor needs the coalition talks to succeed in order to avoid her personal authority being further undermined and Germany's global standing diminished.

Political scientists agree that Germany's third grand coalition in 12 years could be a lowest common denominator government.

Still, had this week's talks failed, Merkel's only options would have been to form a minority government or hold new elections.

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However, he has been forced to wait for months for a concrete response from Merkel, who has come under mounting criticism at home and overseas for her plodding reaction to Macron, aggravated by her struggle to form a new government.

Germany's economic health has stood in stark contrast to the political paralysis, which has entered a fourth month. Politicians of the Green Party admitted that they also considered bailing on the talks over the chancellor's attitude.

"It is a significant, positive, forward-looking contribution to European policy debate in Europe".

In fact, not only is Merkel's career on the line, but also Schulz's and that of Horst Seehofer - the leader of Merkel's Bavarian allies, said political analyst Karl-Rudolf Korte of Duisburg-Essen University.

But after winning an election with a reduced majority in September, she agreed to a soft cap on Germany's refugee intake in a bid to silence bitter squabbling within her conservative camp. The conservatives say yes, and the central Social Democrats say no.

"The negotiations are not just about a coalition, but also their careers".

Though a challenger has yet to come forward, impatience is growing in Christian Democrat ranks about Merkel's tendency to manage crises as they arise rather than presenting a vision the party can rally behind and sell to voters.

Party officials believe a new government is unlikely to take the reins of power until possibly April.

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