A senior conservative was expected to back off plans to join Germany's proposed new coalition government Tuesday, officials said, deepening a crisis triggered by a leadership struggle in the center-left Social Democrats. Senior officials with Bavarian Governor Edmund Stoiber's Christian Social Union told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Stoiber was likely to stay in Munich rather than joining Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel's left-right government as economy minister.
However, a formal decision was to be taken in a telephone conference of CSU leaders later Tuesday, the officials said. ZDF television reported that a CSU lawmaker, Michael Glos, likely would take the government place of Stoiber, the party chairman.
The crisis began Monday, when Social Democratic chairman Franz Muentefering announced he would relinquish that post after fellow party leaders nominated a young leftist as the party's new general secretary, rejecting his candidate.
Muentefering suggested he also might not join the government. He was to become vice chancellor in the proposed "grand coalition" under Merkel, a conservative.
That move raised fears of a future shift of direction in the party and unsettled his prospective partners.
Stoiber had described Muentefering, with whom he has worked successfully in the past, as a "cornerstone" of the proposed government.
"Right now, it is an open question whether there will be this grand coalition," Juergen Ruettgers, the conservative governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state, told ARD television earlier Tuesday.
The Social Democrats, or SPD, "must now create clarity," added Ruettgers, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats.
"We need economic growth, and the SPD must now say not only with whom it wants to enter this coalition, but with what policies it wants to enter this coalition."
The SPD was bitterly divided over outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's decision in 2003 to push through limited reforms of the costly welfare state and the labor market. Monday's nomination of Andrea Nahles, 35, as general secretary appeared to signal a leftward shift, according to the AP.
Despite Monday's events, both sides have vowed to carry on as planned with coalition negotiations, which they hope to complete in time for party conferences to endorse them in mid-November and for Merkel to be voted in by parliament Nov. 22.
The Bavaria-only CSU is the sister party to Merkel's group.
The strike was defensive in nature and came in response to three attacks on the US military in February