Head of Germany's conservatives rules out coalition with far right

FILE PHOTO: CDU party leadership meeting after the EU elections, in Berlin

By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Germany's opposition conservatives, who are topping nationwide polls ahead of elections next year, ruled out his party forming a coalition with the far-right AfD even as European counterparts increasingly consider such alliances.

Friedrich Merz told journalists on Wednesday he had been surprised at the call by France's conservative Republicans' party chairman for an alliance with the far-right National Rally (RN) in the parliamentary elections there.

"We are in a different situation because of our history, especially when it comes to right-wing populism and, above all, right-wing extremism," said Merz, 67, referring to Nazi rule that led to World War Two and the Holocaust.

Moreover, the domestic surveillance agency had detected a large number of right-wing extremists with Nazi beliefs in the Alternative for Germany, Merz said, noting the AfD had proven too radical even for the RN, which cut ties with it last month.

Germany's conservatives would not form a coalition with the AfD either at state or federal level, Merz said.

"I'm not going to move a millimeter on this issue," he said.

Merz was speaking ahead of three state elections in the formerly communist-run eastern Germany, which the AfD is on track to win, although it will likely not be able to form a government given other parties' refusal to work with it.

The parliamentary elections in France will likely complicate French-German cooperation, which is necessary to drive forward the European Union, said Merz.

This makes it more important that other alliances be cultivated, such as with the new Polish government, so that Europe is able to prepare for the possible re-election of Donald Trump as U.S. president on Nov. 5.


Merz, who is considered more right-wing than former conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, refused to comment on whether or not he hoped to become his party's candidate for the job of chancellor.

"We will decide this in late summer," he said, denying reports of a rift with Merkel and saying he had already written her a letter for her 70th birthday on July 17.

Critics say Merz would be a weak candidate, given he has no government experience and is prone to gaffes. He frequently scores lower than Chancellor Olaf Scholz in popularity surveys, despite his party polling nearly double Scholz's Social Democrats.

The former BlackRock executive, a self-declared millionaire, made it clear that if elected chancellor, he would not heed calls to bust Germany's debt brake in order to fund greater investment and develop the defense sector.

"The extent of sovereign debt in the world, not just in Europe, is causing me ever greater concern," he said. "And we may one day be sitting here discussing the question of how the next major sovereign debt crisis could have been prevented."

Germany is the stability anchor of the euro zone, he said, and taking on excess debt would lead to a currency crisis.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Bernadette Baum)