/

SPD to talk coalition with Merkel

AFP-JIJI

Top members of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed Sunday to launch coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel as she attempts to form a government for Europe’s top economy.

An overwhelming majority of the 200 or so SPD members backed their leaders’ recommendations to open formal coalition talks with Merkel following a hefty defeat for the party in Sept. 22 elections.

Party leader Sigmar Gabriel pledged to put any agreement between the two parties to a vote of the some 470,000 rank-and-file SPD members. Many SPD members are wary of another tie-up with Merkel after their 2005-2009 coalition resulted in a heavy defeat at the ballot box.

Gabriel outlined several red lines ahead of the negotiations, chief among which is the introduction of a nationwide minimum wage of €8.50 ($11.60). The SPD, which campaigned on a platform of greater social justice, would also demand stepped-up measures against poverty among pensioners, improved terms for refugees and a greater assault on youth unemployment, Gabriel said.