Germany’s Social Democrats on Monday began intensely exploratory coalition talks with two smaller parties and expressed confidence that all three would form a new government this year after an inconclusive national election.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) narrowly defeated the Conservatives, whose outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled since 2005 in the September 26 federal vote, but did not win a majority.
The SPD is seeking to form a coalition with the Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), which finished third and fourth respectively in the election.
SPD vice-president Kevin Kuenert expressed optimism that a “traffic light” coalition – named after the party colors of the SPD, FDP and Greens – would be formed this year.
“I believe very strongly that this will happen,” he told broadcaster ARD. “Negotiations have begun well, very credible.”
Unlike many other European countries, where the president or monarch invites the leader of a party to try to form a government, in Germany it is up to the parties to decide who should ally.
His decisions will determine the political future of Germany after 16 years in which Merkel is at the helm, the extent of her appetite for the digital age to shape Europe’s largest economy, and her desire to engage with allies on global issues.
The FDP did not want to increase taxes, keeping differences with the Greens and the SPD, although the two smaller parties worked hard to find common ground and a basis for working together in initial bilateral talks.
The CDU/CSU Conservative Bloc, which came second in the election, could theoretically try to form a coalition government to stay in office, but it is still digesting its unexpected defeat.
Christian Democrats (CDU) general secretary Paul Zimiack said on Monday that local party bosses will meet later this month to decide how the party’s new leadership should be chosen.