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'Grand coalition' talks break down in Rhineland

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'Grand coalition' talks break down in Rhineland
Photo: DPA
08:22 CEST+02:00
Talks between the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) to form a so-called “grand coalition” in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia ended without an agreement late on Wednesday night, leaving the future of the state government unclear.

While the two sides managed to agree on several points in their third and final meeting in Düsseldorf since state elections on May 9, questions over education policy and government posts remained unsolved, CDU member and state premier Jürgen Rüttgers said afterwards.

Both sides won an equal number of seats, but so far Rüttgers has demanded to remain state premier in a grand coalition, even though his party's results were considered a bruising defeat and a de facto victory for the SPD.

The two sides evaluated the talks differently. While Rüttgers said he saw “starting points for coalition negotiations,” the SPD's state leader Hannelore Kraft said that many of the CDU's declarations remained vague. Kraft also said the CDU was unwilling to engage in a “new beginning” with personnel, in particular the position of state premier, which she would like to fill.

But now the SPD plans to meet with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the environmentalist Greens to try and form a “traffic light coalition,” named after the party's colours, which are red, yellow and green respectively. Kraft said there was no set appointment for the meeting yet.

Just last week the FDP signalled a new willingness to form such a coalition, a change of heart for the party that has traditionally partnered with Angela Merkel's conservative CDU.

The FDP's U-turn followed failed talks between the SPD, the Greens and the hard-line socialist Left party in the previous week.

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