Germany’s newly-elected legislators are holding their first meetings as the main parties look to put together a new government and digest the results of an election that reduced outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc to its worst ever result.
The narrow winners of Sunday’s parliamentary election, the centre-left Social Democrats of Olaf Scholz, underlined their hopes of a quick start to talks with the likely kingmakers in a new government.
Several prominent figures in Mrs Merkel’s Union bloc have questioned an initial push by election loser Armin Laschet to lead a new administration.
Since neither of the traditional big parties want to renew their outgoing “grand coalition” of rivals, the third- and fourth-placed parties – the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats – appear to hold the keys to a parliamentary majority.
Leaders of those parties plan to meet each other this week to search for common ground before entertaining advances from potential suitors.
“The Greens and Free Democrats have been invited by us to hold exploratory talks with us this week already if they want,” Social Democratic parliamentary group leader Rolf Muetzenich said before a gathering of his party’s newly elected and outgoing legislators.
Mr Scholz, the outgoing vice chancellor, said on Monday that he wants a new government before Christmas if possible.
Forming a government can take weeks or even months in Germany as parties thrash out in detail the new coalition’s legislative plans.
Mr Laschet’s Union bloc also is holding a meeting later on Tuesday, with recriminations likely after a disastrous campaign for the party.
After saying on Sunday night that the party would do “everything we can” to form a new administration, Mr Laschet made clear on Monday that he still hopes to lead a government — but he struck a more reserved tone, arguing that voters had given no party a mandate.
Hesse state governor Volker Bouffier said that “we have no entitlement to take government responsibility”.
The head of the Union’s youth wing, Tilman Kuban, said that “we lost the election, period”.
He argued that the mandate to form a government lies with the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats.
The full 735-member new Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, is expected to hold its first meeting next month.