Victorious Merkel must reach out to leftist rivals

BERLIN (Reuters) – Despite leading her conservatives to their strongest election result in over two decades, German Chancellor Angela Merkel now faces the unsavoury prospect of having to court her arch-rivals on the left to maintain her grip on power.

Even her political enemies admitted last night that Merkel was the big winner of the first German vote since the euro zone debt crisis erupted nearly four years ago and thrust the reserved pastor’s daughter from East Germany into the role of Europe’s dominant leader.

With nearly all the votes counted, Merkel’s conservative bloc stood at 41.8 percent, its strongest score since 1990, and tantalisingly close to the first absolute majority in the Bundestag lower house of parliament in over half a century.

But even the 59-year-old chancellor seemed to acknowledge the difficulty of the challenge ahead, when she was asked on television whether she planned to reach out to other parties.

“Maybe we won’t find anyone who wants to do anything with us,” she replied.

She is likely to turn first to the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she ruled in mostly-successful ‘grand coalition’ in her first term from 2005 to 2009. The SPD came second with 25.6 percent, slightly above their worst post-war result of 2009.

But this time around, the SPD will be loath to do a deal with Merkel unless she pays a high price in terms of cabinet posts and policies.

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