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Momentum grows for another grand coalition in Germany
[BERLIN] Members of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) will likely approve a renewed coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives if party leaders present a convincing proposal, a member of the party's executive leadership said on Saturday.
Niels Annen of the SPD, in an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, called for quick action to form a new German government given a range of crises around the world, and said a "grand coalition" was an option that could not be excluded.
SPD leader Martin Schulz on Friday agreed to hold talks with Mrs Merkel about reviving their outgoing coalition government, but said no decisions had been made and party members would have the final say on any deal.
But he suggested that governing could help the SPD achieve its political aims and told the party's youth wing - which rejected another grand coalition at a party conference - that he expected their loyalty and "constructive cooperation."
Mr Annen said the SPD needed to hear from "the failed chancellor" about how she envisioned the future government before agreeing to another four-year tie-up with conservatives.
The centre-left SPD had vowed to go into opposition after suffering its worst result in 70 years in September's election, but came under intense pressure, including by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to rethink its position and help avert a disruptive repeat poll in Europe's largest economy.
Mr Schulz said party leaders agreed to talks out of a sense of responsibility to Germany and Europe after Mrs Merkel's attempt to form a government with two smaller parties collapsed on Sunday.
"Germany urgently needs a predictable and reliable government. A grand coalition could be an option and we should not exclude it," Mr Annen told the newspaper, adding that the SPD was focused on "what is good for the country."
He welcomed plans to take any coalition agreement to members for a vote, and said the party should continue its restructuring efforts after the September election setback.
"I'm certain, if the SPD leadership makes a convincing proposal, it will be able to convince the membership," he said.
Mr Annen cited citizens' insurance and better protection for renters as issues to hash out with conservatives.
SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner told the Funke newspaper group that Mr Schulz would retain his leadership role, saying he continued to enjoy strong support within the party.
"There is absolutely no doubt that Martin Schulz will be re-elected as party chairman with a good result," he said.