BERLIN: Germany’s long-standing tradition of political leaders exchanging verbal blows on Ash Wednesday could prove to be more stormy than normal as the nation’s main parties struggle to contain the fallout from last week’s contentious coalition agreement.
Chancellor Angela Merkel fronts a list of speeches by party leaders, amid tensions in her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and chaos in the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) over a new coalition deal.
Merkel’s speech, to be held at a sports centre in her north-eastern German electorate, comes amid calls from critics in the CDU for her to set out her succession plans after more than 12 years in power.
The calls also come after she was seen as caving into SPD demands in order to reach a coalition agreement.
The SPD is likely to use the speeches to promote the party’s new leadership, including Andrea Nahles and Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz, who is designated to be finance minister in the next government – that is, if the SPD’s more than 460,000 members agree to team up with Merkel in a make-or-break ballot due to start in about a week.
With a history dating back to the 16th century, the Ash Wednesday speeches, which are to be held across the nation, will also give the CDU’s Bavarian-based allies, the Christian Social Union (CSU), the chance to trot out Markus Soeder, the state’s new designated premier, ahead of what’s likely to be a tough election campaign in October.