The Social Democartic Party, led Martin Schulz (R), voted in favor of entering a second stage of talks to form a coalition with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and her Christian Democratic Union. File Photo by Herby Sachs WDR/EPA
Jan. 21 (UPI) -- Germany's Social Democrat Party voted in favor of entering the second and final stage of coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.
The SPD held a special congress in Bonn Sunday as 56 percent of the party's delegates voted in favor of moving forward with negotiations to form a "grand coalition" led by Merkel.
A count showed voters were narrowly divided on the issue, with 362 in favor, 279 against and one abstention after a show of hands was failed to produce a visible majority.
Following the vote Merkel announced "the path is free for coalition talks" while calling for "a responsible climate, despite all of the divisive issues."
"There is a lot of work ahead of us," she said.
Many voters were unhappy with the decision to continue coalition talks, noting SPD leader Martin Schulz failed to produce any truly Social Democratic policies in the first round of negotiations.
Prior to the vote Schulz promised he will push for eliminating a proposed cap on refugees, establish a "citizens' insurance" scheme to guarantee basic health care standards for state and private patients and secure greater employee rights.
"We will fight for further improvements in the coalition negotiations if we can continue the talks," he said.
Schulz had initially opposed forming a coalition between the center-left party and Merkel's center-right party, but changed his stance after a attempts to form an unorthodox "Jamaica" coalition between the CDU, the pro-business Free Democrats and the Green party.
He described the coalition as a "revolution" for German education policy and "a manifesto for a European Germany."
"If we want to shape things in and for Europe, then we cannot wait a few more years," Schulz said. "Important decisions have to be made now - not in three, four, five years."