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Germany’s liberal Free Democratic party decisively rejected the possibility of joining a leftwing-led coalition after next Sunday’s election, increasing the likelihood that Angela Merkel will retain her hold on the chancellery.
At its party conference in Potsdam on Sunday, the FDP rebuffed the political courtship of the Social Democratic party (SPD), ruling out any chance that it would join them in a three-way coalition with the Greens.
Instead, the FDP reiterated its willingness to join a coalition led by Ms Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, in what would be Germany’s first centre-right government since 1998. The two parties have promised to lower taxes, cut red tape and reverse a previous government decision to abandon nuclear power.
Opinion polls have suggested that a CDU-FDP government is the likeliest outcome of the election. But they have recently pointed to a resurgence of the political left.
The SPD has been making inroads into the Christian Democratic Union’s double-digit poll lead, sparking fears in Ms Merkel’s camp of a repeat of the 2005 campaign, when a slump in support forced the party into a “grand coalition” with the SPD.
Left-of-centre parties have concentrated on attacking the FDP, characterising it as a band of neoliberal, free-market radicals that would eradicate employment protections, undercut the social welfare system and benefit only the rich.
Guido Westerwelle, the FDP leader, described these leftwing attacks as “scenarios for infants”, saying that three-quarters of the German population will soon live happily in federal states governed by CDU-FDP coalitions.
Nevertheless, Mr Westerwelle insisted it was right that “those who work should have more than those who do not”.
Mr Westerwelle, who stands a good chance of becoming Germany’s first openly gay foreign minister, said “socialists and communists” must not be allowed to rule Germany and spoke out against the possibility of another grand coalition.
The Social Democrats and Greens, meanwhile, sowed doubts about whether the FDP would stick to its promise not to work with them if the party did not perform as well as expected next weekend.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, SPD candidate for chancellor, told Focus magazine: “I remain relaxed. Experience shows us that coalition questions are only seriously considered at 6.01pm on election day.”
He also repeated warnings about the dangers of a political shift to the centre-right. “The kind of thinking that led us into this crisis cannot provide the way out of the crisis,” he told Bild am Sonntag.