Germany's Merkel rules out coalition with far left, far right

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 29, 2017 2:02 PM

By Andreas Rinke

BITTERFELD-WOLFEN, Germany (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she would not form a government coalition after elections with either the far left or the far right.

Supporters of the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party jeered her throughout a 30-minute campaign speech in the eastern city of Bitterfeld-Wolfen.

Merkel, whose conservatives have a double-digit lead over the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in polls ahead of the Sept. 24 elections, also ruled out a coalition with Germany's far-left Left party.

She said the SPD, junior partner in Merkel's current coalition government, had also ruled out governing with the anti-immigrant AfD, but had not issued any clear statements on whether it would work with the Left party.

"We say clearly: no coalition with the AfD and no coalition with the Left," Merkel said, underscoring her party's standard line on potential future governing alliances. "The Social Democrats have been lacking this clarity."

The chancellor, a Christian Democrat, said she did not think a so-called "Red-Red-Green" coalition of the Social Democrats with the Left and the pro-environment Greens would help advance Germany.

Such a coalition would be one possible alternative to a return of a Merkel-led coalition between her CDU/CSU conservatives and the SPD. There has also been discussion of a possible coalition of the conservatives with the pro-business Free Democrats.

Merkel, expected to win a record-tying fourth term, defended her decision in 2015 to allow in over a million migrants, carrying on her stump speech despite loud heckling from a group of around 60 protesters, many of whom carried AfD signs.

Some booed, while others shouted "get lost" and chanted "AfD, AfD." She has faced similar heckling at about a third of her speeches since kicking off the campaign on Aug. 12.

One man held up a placard reading: "Mrs. Merkel, I'm afraid for my children and grandchildren. That's your doing."

Founded in 2013 as an anti-euro party, the AfD shifted its focus after the euro zone debt crisis peaked to campaigning against immigration after Merkel's move in 2015 to open the borders to a flood of migrants, many from the Middle East.

Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats were on 37 percent support in the latest poll by the INSA institute released on Tuesday, compared with 24 percent for the SPD.

The poll showed 10 percent support for both the Left and the AfD parties, while the Greens were at 6.5 percent and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) was on 8 percent.

Both of the ruling parties would prefer to govern with smaller parties, but it remains unclear whether they will be able to avoid another "grand coalition."

Earlier on Tuesday, Merkel accused one of the AfD's top officials, Alexander Gauland, of racism for his recent remarks suggesting Aydan Ozoguz, the government's integration minister, should be "dumped" back in her parent's homeland of Turkey.

Merkel also criticized a move by members of her conservative party in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt, where Bitterfeld is located, to support a legislative measure proposed by the AfD.

(Written by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)