Merkel faces tricky coalition talks after ‘nightmare victory’

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, as representative of the Bavarian CSU, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, head of the Christian Democratic Party CDU, FDP head Christian Lindner, and Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz, head of the Social Democratic Party SPD, from left, attend a TV talk of the party leader in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, after the German parliament elections. (AP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Merkel faces tricky coalition talks after ‘nightmare victory’

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel woke up Monday to a fourth term but now faces the double headache of an emboldened hard-right opposition party and thorny coalition talks ahead.
If the campaign was widely decried as boring, its outcome was a bombshell — a populist surge weakened Merkel’s conservatives as well as the center-left Social Democrats, handing both their worst results in decades.
“A nightmare victory for Merkel,” said Germany’s best-selling daily Bild.
After 12 years in power and running on a promise of stability and continuity, Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc scored 33 percent, according to final results, against 20.5 percent for the Social Democrats under challenger Martin Schulz, who pledged to go into the opposition.
The election spelt a breakthrough for the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD), which with 12.6 percent became the third strongest party and vowed to “go after” Merkel over her migrant and refugee policy.
News weekly Der Spiegel said Merkel had no one but herself to blame for the bruising she got from voters.
“Angela Merkel deserved this defeat,” Spiegel’s Dirk Kurbjuweit wrote, accusing her of running an “uninspired” campaign and “largely ignoring the challenges posed by the right.”
The entry of dozens of hard-right nationalist MPs to the glass-domed Bundestag chamber breaks a taboo in post-World War II Germany.
“We will take our country back,” vowed the AfD’s jubilant Alexander Gauland, who has recently urged Germans to be proud of their war veterans and said a government official who is of Turkish origin should be “dumped in Anatolia.”
While joyful supporters of the AfD — a party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP — sang the German anthem at a Berlin club late Sunday, hundreds of protesters shouted “Nazis out!“


All other political parties have ruled out working with the AfD, whose leaders call Merkel a “traitor” for allowing in more than one million asylum seekers since the height of the refugee influx in 2015.
While Germany still digests the rise of the right-wingers, Merkel’s inner circle will prepare Monday for what could be lengthy coalition talks ahead with a number of smaller parties.
Party leaders will meet at 0700 GMT at Berlin headquarters to draw their conclusions from the election that some have dubbed a referendum on the refugee crisis, a contentious issue especially for her Bavarian CSU allies.
CSU chief Horst Seehofer, a vocal critic of Merkel’s asylum policy, called the poll outcome a “bitter disappointment” and vowed to close the “open flank” on the right before state elections next year, signalling more trouble ahead.
A weakened Merkel must now find a new junior partner after the Social Democrats (SPD) declared they would go into opposition, to recover the support they lost while governing in Merkel’s shadow.
Schulz, putting a brave face on the defeat, vowed that the 150-year-old traditional workers’ party would serve as “the bulwark of democracy in this country” and stop the AfD from leading the opposition.


This will likely force Merkel to team up with two smaller, and very different, parties to form a lineup dubbed the “Jamaica coalition” because the three parties’ colors match those of the Caribbean country’s flag.
One is the pro-business and liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), which scored a 10.7-percent comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.
The other is the left-leaning, ecologist Greens party, a pioneer of Germany’s anti-nuclear movement which won 8.9 percent on campaign pledges to drive forward the country’s clean energy shift and fight climate change.
The far-left Die Linke, traditionally an opposition party, took 9.2 percent of votes.
Weeks, if not months, of jockeying and horse-trading could lie ahead to build a new government and avoid snap elections.
The FDP has governed with the conservatives before, and the two have in the past been seen as “natural allies.”
But its leader Christian Lindner has pointed to new “red lines,” voicing skepticism especially on French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a single eurozone budget, which Merkel has cautiously greeted.
The Greens, meanwhile, sharply differ with the FDP and CSU on key issues from immigration to the environment, pushing to expand wind farms, phase out coal and take to task car makers over the “dieselgate” emissions cheating scandal.


“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

Updated 24 September 2018
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“No-deal” Brexit would hit trucks, airlines and pet owners — govt papers

LONDON: Leaving the European Union without a proper divorce deal could ground airlines, stop hauliers from lugging goods to the world’s biggest trading bloc and even make headaches for pet owners who want to take their dogs on holiday, according to government documents.
With just six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has warned that negotiations are at an impasse and that the EU must come up with new proposals on how to craft a divorce settlement.
Many business chiefs and investors fear politics could scupper an agreement, thrusting the world’s fifth largest economy into a “no-deal” Brexit that they say would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Britain, which has warned it could leave without a deal, published 25 technical notices on Monday covering everything from commercial road haulage and buying timber to airline regulations and taking pets abroad.
“If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission,” the government said.
Overall, the government has published more than 65 such notices giving a glimpse of what a no-deal Brexit — the nightmare scenario for chief executives of most multinationals operating in Britain — would look like.
Amid warnings that trucks could stack up on both sides of the English Channel in the confusion of a no deal, Britain said it would seek to strike bilateral agreements with European countries to ensure hauliers would retain access.
The notices covered a vast swathe of the British economy, warning, for example, that labels on packaged food would have to be changed.
“Use of the term ‘EU’ in origin labelling would no longer be correct for food or ingredients from the UK,” the government said.
Honey producers would have to change their labels while EU countries might not accept British mineral water, the government said.
In the worse case scenario for pet owners, dogs, cats and even ferrets might need health certificates and rabies jabs. Travel plans would have to be discussed with a vet at least four months in advance before traveling to the EU.
That would mean someone wanting to take their pet to the EU on March 30, 2019, the day after Britain leaves the bloc, would have to discuss the trip with a vet before the end of November.
Without a deal, the UK would move from seamless trade with the rest of the EU to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organization for external states with no preferential deals.
Brexiteers accept there is likely to be some short-term economic pain but say the government is trying to scare voters about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain, many Brexiteers say, will thrive in the longer term if cut loose from what they see as a doomed experiment in German-dominated unity and excessive debt-funded welfare spending.