The parties have agreed to hammer out a deal by the end of Sunday to form a government after they reached a stalemate over healthcare issues.
"I hope we can manage it," said Chancellor Angela Merkel on behalf of her CDU party on February 2, warning however that there still was "a whole list of very serious points of disagreement."
The sides seem to be reluctant to meet each other halfway and reach a compromise, leaving such big questions as how the renewal of “grand coalition” will shape healthcare, labor laws, pensions, reform of the European Union and euro single currency on the agenda.
Without the consent of SPD party members, Germany will not witness the formation of grand coalition: as was the case in 2013, SPD had the last word when it came to signing a coalition treaty with the CDU and CSU. Members are supposed to vote by letter, submitting “yes” or “no,” with new members being allowed to vote provided they join the party before February 6. According to DW, the Social Democrats have recorded a sudden increase in applications for membership after formal coalition talks in January.
In contrast to the 2013 grand coalition, which 76 percent of the SPD’s members approved of, many Social Democrats feel that some of their crucial demands are being overlooked, such as the issue of refugee family reunifications.
Furthermore, rank-and-file party members are at odds with the SPD leader Martin Schulz, who initially insisted that the SPD would enter the opposition in parliament but suddenly changed his mind on coalition talks after the CDU/CSU bloc failed to form a government with the Greens and the Free Democratic Party.
Many are dissatisfied with his decision, saying that SPD had suffered at the voting booth in subsequent elections twice in a government under Merkel’s leadership. Current opinion polls suggest that support for Martin Schulz’s party has reached a record low.
Recently, Merkel had said that she believes that the CDU and the CSU will be able to agree on a coalition government with Social Democrats and that they will try to complete the talks without delays.
"I am optimistic and determined that we should achieve a result and I think we are capable of doing that in the foreseeable future," the chancellor said.
The difficult situation in forming a government is the result of the German Free Democratic Party's (FDP) decision to withdraw from the coalition talks with the CDU/CSU and the Greens in on November 20, 2017. If the coalition talks fail, the remaining options for Merkel will be snap elections or a minority government.
The talks follow the elections held in late September, and the CDU/CSU has been working on the formation of the government ever since.