Germany's social democrats vote to start talks with Merkel's party

Germany's social democrats vote to start talks with Merkel's party

The news comes after almost three weeks of deadlock following the collapse of coalition talks between Merkel's alliance, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Green Party after federal elections in September.

Germany has been struggling to build a new government since a September 24 national election in which Ms. Merkel's conservative bloc and the SPD both lost support.

Ahead of the vote, party leader Martin Schulz urged delegates to back the motion.

"We do not have to rule at all costs".

"We don't need to govern at all costs, but we must not avoid governing at all costs either", he said.

The left-leaning Greens' call for relatives to be allowed to join people granted protection that falls short of asylum was one hard point in Merkel's previous coalition talks, although it appeared on track to be resolved and didn't in itself sink the effort.

Suffering the lowest vote rates since 1949, SPD had repeatedly ruled out a grand coalition again with the Union after the current one, but it faced increasing pressure from the public after the collapse of the Jamaica coalition exploratory talks last month. Nor minority government or fresh elections.

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The "grand coalition" of Germany's biggest parties is unpopular with many Social Democrats, and leader Martin Schulz has promised a membership ballot on any coalition deal.

The approximately 600 SPD delegates are reluctant.

Outside the congress hall, youth activists handed out red cards reading "No Grand Coalition".

SPD's decision was welcomed by the Union.

In an election later, Schulz was re-elected as SPD's party leader with a total of 81.9 percent of the vote, down from the 100 percent he received in March when he was elected as SPD Chairman.

The Social Democrats are Merkel's best hope for building a government in her fourth term in office, after discussions with the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats failed.

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