Germany: Merkel's junior partners meet to plot future course

The junior partner in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition, the center-left Social Democratic Party, has opened a party congress where it is set to elect a left-leaning new leadership and discuss the future of the government

The junior partner in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition on Friday opened a party congress where it is set to elect a left-leaning new leadership and discuss the future of the government.

The meeting of the center-left Social Democratic Party in Berlin ends a six-month leadership hiatus for the struggling party after former leader Andrea Nahles quit following a dismal performance in European Parliament elections. But it may not end questions about the party's future course.

Party members chose left-leaning duo Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans in a ballot whose results were announced last weekend — rejecting a rival team that clearly favored staying in Merkel's coalition and was favored by the party establishment. The congress must formally elect the new leadership.

Esken and Walter-Borjans have been more skeptical about staying in the coalition, but also stopped short of demanding an immediate departure halfway through the parliamentary term.

Merkel's center-right Union bloc has made clear that it isn't prepared to embark on a full renegotiation of the accord underpinning the coalition.

A motion drawn up with the incoming leadership for the three-day congress calls for talks with the Union aimed at raising the national minimum wage, increasing public investment and raising the price of carbon dioxide in a recently agreed package of climate measures. But it avoids a clear position on the coalition's future.