Three German parties aim to open formal coalition talks after all made gains in last month's election, moving a step closer to a new government that would send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc into opposition.
The centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats on Friday wrapped up just over a week of three-way exploratory talks and agreed they have enough common ground to recommend moving on to full-fledged coalition negotiations.
That still requires approval by a congress of the Greens and by the Free Democrats' leadership.
If the talks are ultimately successful, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz - the finance minister and vice chancellor in the outgoing government - will become Germany's new leader.
Scholz pulled the Social Democrats out of a long poll slump to win Germany's September 26 election by a narrow margin. Merkel's Union bloc finished second, with its worst-ever share of the vote. It is currently in turmoil, focused on digesting its defeat and finding a new leadership.
The three-way coalition now under discussion has never been tried at national level.
The only politically plausible alternatives would be a government led by the Union with the Greens and Free Democrats as junior partners, or a rerun - this time led by Scholz - of Merkel's often bad-tempered "grand coalition" of Germany's traditional big parties.
Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, announced in 2018 that she wouldn't seek a fifth term.
Australian Associated Press