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Critics in Merkel's conservatives vow to block coalition projects

By Andrea Shalal

By Andrea Shalal

BERLIN (Reuters) - The business wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives on Saturday vowed to block certain projects included in this week's coalition agreement with the Social Democrats (SPD), as tensions roiled both political blocs.

Christian von Stetten of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) said lawmakers in parliament - not coalition negotiators - had the ultimate say on policies, and had gained power since elections last year because the coalition parties now hold only a slender majority.

"The coalition agreement is not the Bible," von Stetten told the German Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

"As the parliamentary group for medium-sized business, we can make sure that those things that were well-intentioned but not carefully thought through can be held up and corrected."

He did not elaborate. Von Stetten has been critical of Merkel's ceding of the finance ministry to the centre-left SPD under the coalition deal.

A majority of conservatives in parliament belong to the group, which advocates for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Merkel, who will serve a fourth term as chancellor if the coalition deal holds, has also faced criticism from her party's youth wing and others who feel she made too many concessions to the SPD.

Merkel is anxious to get a government in place and end more than four months of political limbo in Europe's largest economy. The political paralysis has caused concern among partners in the European Union who look to Berlin for leadership in facing challenges ranging from eurozone reform to Brexit.

Von Stetten said he would have preferred a conservative-led minority government to the coalition deal that Merkel agreed with the SPD on Wednesday.


The Social Democrats are also in disarray after their leader, Martin Schulz, on Friday abandoned plans to become Germany's next foreign minister, saying he hoped the decision would shore up support among SPD members for the coalition deal.

The party's 464,000 members must approve the agreement in a mail ballot, whose results will be made public on March 4.

Schulz, 62, has come under fire for reversing his pledge during the campaign that he would not serve in a Merkel-led government. He had initially opposed another tie-up with the conservatives only to become one of its leading advocates.

The former European Parliament president had already announced that he would step down as party leader and recommended 47-year-old Andrea Nahles as his successor.

The SPD's youth wing is campaigning against the coalition, arguing that dissatisfaction with the last such coalition - which ruled from 2013 to 2017 - resulted in the SPD's worst poll outcome since 1933 in last September's election.

A Civey poll released by the Huffington Post on Friday evening underscored the generational divide, with 86.5 percent of young Germans aged 18 to 29, and nearly 80 percent of Germans aged 30 to 39, saying they did not feel represented in German politics.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Andrew Roche)