German coalition's future at stake as parties again try to resolve spymaster affair
* Compromise deal over spymaster came unstuck on Friday
* Merkel has said parties want to find solution this weekend
* CDU: Must see if partners can unite behind joint mission
* SPD youth leader: Shouldn't maintain alliance at any price
By Michelle Martin
BERLIN, Sept 22 (Reuters) - The fate of Chancellor Angela
Merkel's unwieldy six-month-old government is hanging in the
balance as the three coalition parties seek again this weekend
to resolve their dispute over Germany's scandal-tainted
The coalition parties agreed on Tuesday to transfer spy
chief Hans-Georg Maassen to the interior ministry following
accusations that he harboured far-right views after he
questioned the authenticity of video footage showing radicals
hounding migrants in the eastern city of Chemnitz.
But the compromise deal, which would put Maassen in a better
paid job, unravelled on Friday when Andrea Nahles - leader of
the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partner in
Merkel's conservative-led coalition - said it was a mistake.
Merkel and her Bavarian ally Horst Seehofer agreed to review
the deal and the chancellor said the three party leaders wanted
to find a sustainable solution this weekend.
A source from one of the parties told Reuters no meeting was
planned for Saturday.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, general secretary of Merkel's
Christian Democrats (CDU), wrote to party members to say the CDU
thought the planned talks should be used "to clarify whether all
coalition partners can continue to unite together behind the
She said there must no longer be any doubt about whether the
governing parties were able and willing to tackle the issues
that mattered to people.
Former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel told magazine Der Spiegel:
"If the grand coalition doesn't manage to do what the people
expect of it - namely stability and an ability to act - it has
lost its raison d'etre."
Kevin Kuehnert, who leads the SPD's youth wing and
campaigned against the formation of the 'grand coalition', told
newspaper Die Welt that the deal was incomprehensible for many
Germans and was undermining trust.
"The coalition should not be maintained at any price," he
said. He also suggested the coalition would not last until this
legislative period ends in 2021.
Nahles had been widely criticised by SPD members for
agreeing to the deal, with some calling for the party to quit
the coalition. Some members praised her on Saturday for
admitting the mistake and seeking to correct it.
Polls published this week showed 72 percent of voters had
less confidence in the government and almost half of Germans
were in favour of a new election, reflecting discontent with the
handling of the Maassen affair.
Support for Merkel's conservative bloc - made up of her CDU
and Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU) - slumped to a new
low of 28 percent, a poll showed on Friday, while the far-right
Alternative for Germany - which backed Maassen - hit a record
high of 18 percent, ahead of the SPD on 17 percent.
Christian Lindner, leader of the opposition Free Democrats,
said on Twitter late on Friday that revisiting the Maassen deal
would result in the coalition breaking up or costing at least
Seehofer or Nahles their job.
Senior German conservative Volker Bouffier told the Funke
group of newspapers that the coalition could only continue if
all partners realised they needed to stop arguing.
The 'grand coalition' only took office in March, almost six
months after an election, due to the lack of other viable
governing options. It got off to a bumpy start, with Merkel only
managing two months ago to end a painful row with the CSU over
(Additional reporting by Markus Wacket
Editing by Gareth Jones)
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