BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s Greens agreed on Thursday to enter talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to renew a regional coalition, a signal that the two may seek a national government after a federal election in September.
The decision by the environmentalist party in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg follows an election there last month which the Greens won for the third successive time. Merkel’s CDU suffered a record defeat.
After lengthy discussions on whether to renew their alliance with the CDU or pursue a three-way coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), the Greens in the state opted for the status quo.
“This result provides the basis for upcoming coalition negotiations,” the Greens state association said. Exploratory talks will start on Saturday before any more detailed coalition negotiations can take place.
Many analysts see a coalition between Merkel’s party and the Greens as the most likely outcome of the Sept. 26 election, although most likely with the conservatives as senior partner.
Hit by public anger over an increasingly chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic and a sluggish vaccine rollout, the conservatives have slumped to around 27% in polls, down from almost 33% at the last federal election. The Greens are at around 22%.
Merkel, in power since 2005, is not standing for a fifth term as chancellor and the conservative bloc is already missing the “Merkel bonus” which has helped them to four straight national victories.
The CDU’s new leader, Armin Laschet, is vying with Markus Soeder, who leads Bavarian conservatives, to run as the conservative bloc’s chancellor candidate. A DeutschlandTrend poll for broadcaster ARD showed that 54% of Germans preferred Soeder compared with 19% who backed Laschet.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Mark Heinrich)