Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken’s appointment has left the Berlin government in peril because of a threat to pull their support unless a series of demands for significant policy concessions can be met. They are seeking to renegotiate fresh terms for the alliance that was formed after the September 2017 federal elections. The SPD have made raising public investments, scrapping temporary job contracts a red line if Mrs Merkel wants to prolong her fragile coalition.
They also want to increase the minimum wage for €9 an hour to €12, as well as force Germany to adopt a more radical approach on the so-called “climate emergency”.
Mr Walter-Borjans said: “If the coalition partner then takes an obstructive approach for these new tasks then you have to make a decision that it cannot continue.”
His and Ms Esken’s election as SPD co-leaders will leave Germany facing months of political uncertainty with the collapse of the coalition looking a growing likelihood.
They narrowly secured victory in Saturday’s leadership ballot with 53 percent of the vote, beating finance minister Olaf Scholz and Klara Geywitz by eight points.
The vote signifies a lurch to the left for the SPD after a 54 percent turnout of the party’s 425,000 members.
Many in the party believe governing under Mrs Merkel’s grand coalition is to blame for poor performances in recent regional and European elections.
It once again raises questions whether Mrs Merkel will face an earlier exit from frontline politics than she intended after announcing she would not run for another term in office.
The SPD’s new coalitions demands are likely to spark a bitter row with the CDU having made clear it is unlikely to accept such negotiations.
CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “The new SPD leadership must decide whether they want to stay in this coalition or not.
“We have a coalition and this coalition has a coalition agreement. That is the basis on which we are working. And it applies for the whole legislative period. We are not a therapy facility for the respective coalition, government parties.”
Paul Ziemiak, the CDU’s general secretary, added: “Our aim is to govern Germany well, and the foundations for this are in our coalition agreement.
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Malu Dreyer said: “I think we should calm down a bit.
“We should take note that the party has elected new leadership – that is the point – and it will set out its priorities on the question of how we proceed with the grand coalition, but we will discuss that in a few days at the party conference.”
The SPD conference, which meets on December 6, will ask delegates to vote to approve the new leadership and on a yet-to-be published motion on the coalition.