Friction in Merkel's coalition

2009-10-01 13:09

Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's new coalition partners accused her of riding roughshod in the run-up of talks on forming a government, in interviews published on Thursday.

Leading members of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) slammed the conservative Merkel for staking out policy positions ahead of negotiations on a roadmap for the four-year term, as clear differences emerged.

"It is poor form to say what may not be discussed before the coalition talks have even begun," FDP deputy leader Cornelia Pieper told the daily Bild.

"Apparently the Union is quite nervous. Many of them appear to be fixated on what jobs they may get," she said, referring to Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat (CDU/CSU) bloc, which turned in its worst score since 1949 in Sunday's general election.

FDP general secretary Dirk Niebel questioned Merkel's declaration that the main pillars of a reform of the healthcare system passed under the previous "grand coalition" government would not be touched.

He said the conservatives needed to remember that they had campaigned for the election seeking a coalition with the Free Democrats, arguing a centre-right government was best-suited to lift Germany out of its worst postwar slump.

"We are extending a hand to the Union to get out of this swamp," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.

Merkel angered the Free Democrats, whose record 14.6% score in the election gave the alliance a majority in parliament, by drawing lines in the sand ahead of the coalition talks which are to begin on Monday.

In addition to rejecting a rollback of major changes to the healthcare system, she has also ruled out axeing sector-wide minimum wage agreements or making it easier for firms to lay off workers.

Merkel aims to have a new government in place in time for celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9.