BERLIN (Reuters) -The three German parties working to form a new coalition government aim to wrap up their talks by the end of November and elect Social Democrat Olaf Scholz chancellor in the week of Dec. 6, party officials said on Thursday.
Speaking as formal coalition negotiations began between the SPD, the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), the SPD’s general secretary Lars Klingbeil said the aim was for 22 specialist policy working groups to report back by Nov. 10.
Senior officials from other parties said they were optimistic that the talks would be successful, with Volker Wissing, general secretary of the business-friendly Free Democrats, saying exploratory talks had been encouraging.
Last month’s national election saw Angela Merkel’s conservative block relegated to second place after the still popular Chancellor chose not to run for a fifth term after 16 years in office.
The targeted timeline of the would-be “traffic light” coalition – named after the red, yellow and green colours of the parties – would deprive Merkel of beating Helmut Kohl’s record for longest-serving post-war chancellor by just days.
While the Greens and the SPD are seen as progressive ideological bedfellows, the FDP have historically been closer to the conservatives.
Despite this, preliminary talks between the three parties yielded agreement on a 12-page roadmap for a coalition deal, containing pledges on climate protection, taxes and the minimum wage, which will now feed into the final government programme.
“It’s ambitious,” said Wissing of the timetable the parties had set themselves.
The parties have not yet discussed cabinet personnel decisions, FDP leader Christian Lindner said late on Thursday during a political talkshow on broadcaster ZDF, although Greens co-chief Annalena Baerbock said both junior partners were interested in the finance ministry.
(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Christian Kraemer, Sarah Marsh and Alexander Ratz, writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Richard Pullin)