German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, a day after talks to form a new ruling coalition collapsed, signaled that she prefers a fresh election over trying to stay in power as part of a minority government.
Merkel said that she was "very skeptical" of the prospect of leading a minority government — something that hasn't even been tried since the end of World War II.
"The path to the formation of a government is proving harder than any of us had wished for," she told broadcaster public television ARD, adding that "new elections would be the better path."
"I don't have a minority government in my plans," Merkel said in an interview with the broadcaster, according to The Associated Press. "I don't want to say never today, but I am very skeptical and I think that new elections would then be the better way."
Merkel's remarks came after President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the parties to "pause and reconsider their position."
"I expect the parties to make the formation of a new government possible in the foreseeable future," Steinmeier said in a statement. "The parties had a responsibility that "cannot be simply given back to the voters."
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian-based sister party, the Christian Socialist Union (CSU) together command 246 seats in the 709 seat Bundestag. The second-largest bloc is controlled by the Social Democratic Party, which has so-far been steadfast in its refusal to enter into a Merkel government.
As we reported on Monday, The future of Merkel's government has been in limbo since elections in September, when her Christian Democrats lost significant support. Along with Bavaria's Christian Social Union, she's been trying to forge an alliance with the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). It was the pro-business FDP's decision to walk out of talks on Sunday that precipitated the latest crisis.
But a new round of voting has sparked concern that Germany's far right nationalist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), which did surprisingly well in recent elections, could make further inroads.
Deutsche Welle reports that "If no majority coalition emerges, Steinmeier is bound by the German constitution to nominate a chancellor for approval by the German parliament, the Bundestag. If no stable government can be formed after three rounds of voting there, the president would have to ask Germans to return to the polls."
"After a unusually constructive meeting last week with a Merkel ally, Manfred Weber, Theresa May, the British prime minister, was reported to be close to conceding to German demands for an increased [Brexit] divorce settlement in exchange for a favourable start to trade talks. The Brexit secretary, David Davis, also appealed directly to German business interests in Berlin on Friday.
However, the [those] moves come as the prospect of any future assistance from the German government recedes."