Angela Merkel’s opponents turn to Momentum-style tactics in bid to stop coalition deal

Opponents of Angela Merkel are turning to Momentum-style tactics in a bid to stop her forming a new government in Germany.

A rebel movement is urging thousands of people to become members of the centre-left Social Democrat Party (SPD) in order to block it joining a new coalition under Mrs Merkel.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the SPD’s youth wing, the Jusos, who narrowly failed to stop the party entering formal coalition negotiations in a vote at the weekend.

A final deal still has to be approved by a full vote of the membership, and the Jusos believe they can recruit enough new members to block it.

The idea is also being backed by a left-wing faction within the SPD, the Democratic Left Forum 21, who have come up with their own slogan: “Come in, say No!”

The SPD says there have been hundreds of new membership applications since the weekend vote in favour of coalition talks. The party’s regional association in Bavaria received 100 in a single day on Monday, while there were 70 in Berlin.

But the Jusos and their allies have a major task before them. The party currently has 440,000 members, and it says it will set a deadline for new members to join by if they want to vote on a coalition deal.

Angela Merkel touches a marionette of the "Royal Craziness" of North-Rhine WestphaliaCredit:

Delegates at a special party congress narrowly voted in favour of formal coalition negotiations at the weekend, with just 56 per cent casting their ballot for it.

Most commentators believe the current general membership is more likely to support a coalition than the highly politicised delegates, though there is no reliable polling data.

Leading voices in the parliamentary party have spoken out against the plan. “I have a problem with people saying: join just so you can vote, and then you can resign,” Matthias Miersch, a prominent left-leaning MP, said. “Party membership means values, and that’s crucial.”

Mr Kühnert, the Juso leader, later distanced himself from the idea of two-month memberships, tweeting: “We want to recruit new members who join the SPD out of conviction”.

But the initiative has left Mrs Merkel with one more obstacle in the way of forming a new government, just as she was breathing a sigh of relief over the weekend’s vote.

It has also potentially given the SPD a stronger hand at negotiations which are expected to begin later this week. With the threat of an eventual No vote, the party’s negotiators will hope they can demand more concessions from Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

The winners and losers of the German election: Vote swings

Meanwhile the narrow vote in favour of negotiations has left the SPD leader Martin Schulz severely weakened, with many questioning his future at the head of the party.

His performance at Sunday’s congress was generally considered to be lacklustre, with many commentators suggesting he was only saved from defeat by an altogether more rousing speech in favour of a coalition from one of his rivals for the leadership, Andrea Nahles.

To make matters worse for Mr Schulz, a growing number of party figures are now demanding he honour a pledge he made immediately after last year’s election not to serve as a minister in a Merkel government.

Mr Schulz is widely expected to demand the plum job of foreign minister as well as the vice-chancellorship in a coalition.

But two senior party figures on Tuesday called on him to stand by his word. “A U-turn on this would shatter Martin Schulz’s credibility,”  Wolfgang Tiefensee, regional leader in the state of Thuringia, said.

“We need a party leader who is not a member of the government,” Frederick Brütting, deputy leader in Baden-Württemberg state said.

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