In this picture Taken with a television camera control light inn the fore ground German Christian Democratic Union party chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer attends a news conference after a board meeting at the party's headquarters in Berlin, Monday, May 27, 2019. Germany's governing parties slid to their worst post-World War II showing in a nationwide election at the European Parliament elections yesterday. Chancellor Angele Merkel's center-right Union bloc drops down from 35.4 to 28.9 percents. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Germany's governing parties in damage control after EU vote

May 27, 2019 - 9:40 am

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's governing parties licked their wounds Monday after a battering in the European Parliament elections and vowed to improve their performance. But they offered little prospect of dramatic change or of heads rolling.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc governs Germany in an often-cantankerous and unpopular "grand coalition" of what are traditionally the country's biggest parties with the center-left Social Democrats. In Sunday's election, both had their worst showing yet in a nationwide vote, with the Social Democrats sinking to third place behind the resurgent Greens.

The result appeared likely to deepen tensions in the coalition — though, despite pre-election speculation that a dire result could hasten its end, neither side showed any inclination to pull the plug.

One immediate point of contention: Merkel's bloc pushed for support to make Manfred Weber, a German conservative, the next head of the European Commission, while the Social Democrats backed the Netherlands' Frans Timmermans.

The Social Democrats' leader, Andrea Nahles, said "it is completely clear to everyone how serious the situation is" after her party slumped to third place on Sunday, overtaken by the Greens. She said the party needs to address a lack of "strategic capability" and take "more clear positions" on issues such as climate change and labor.

How helpful that will be remains to be seen. A Social Democratic push in recent weeks for more generous pensions for low earners, along with comments by the head of the party's youth wing advocating the collectivization of big companies, stoked tensions in the coalition without attracting voters.

Markus Soeder, the leader of the Christian Social Union — part of Merkel's center-right bloc — urged the Social Democrats to "clear up what they want."

He urged an end to periodic talk in the center-left party's ranks about an early end to the coalition, saying that "people who only say in a relationship that they'd prefer to move out won't manage a happy marriage in the future."

Nahles said her party will now consider what it wants from a midterm review that the coalition agreed to hold when it took office in March last year.

The review is due at some point this fall and has been defined only vaguely so far, but has been widely viewed as something that could mean an early end to the government. The next election isn't currently due until late 2021.

Nahles rejected suggestions that she might resign, saying: "I feel the responsibility I have, but I want to take it." The leader of Merkel's CDU, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, acknowledged making mistakes but also made clear she sees no need for resignations.

Merkel, who handed the CDU leadership to Kramp-Karrenbauer in December and largely stayed out of the election campaign, didn't attend her party's news conference on Monday.


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