Angela Merkel and his main rival congratulated Olaf Scholz on his election victory over the weekend as he hopes to form a coalition that will make him the next German Chancellor.
Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU bloc fell to its worst result in Sunday’s parliamentary elections with 24.1% of the vote, behind Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats (SPD) with 25.7%.
The poll scandal left the Tories in chaos, with high-ranking figures distancing themselves from CDU leader Armin Laschet, who campaigned to replace Merkel and insisted on trying to form a coalition despite being second.
Merkel, who is bowing out after 16 years at the helm of Europe’s largest economy, had remained out of the fray but broke her silence in a statement Wednesday to reveal that she had praised Scholz “on his electoral success” earlier during the week.
Laschet, who has been criticized in recent days for failing to publicly congratulate his opponent as Germany contemplates the prospect of months of coalition wrangling, sent a congratulatory letter to Scholz which was received on Wednesday, told the ‘AFP from party sources within the SPD and CDU-CSU. .
The SPD was also supported by a selfie posted on Instagram Tuesday night that showed four prominent members of the Greens and the pro-business FDP party smiling after their first preliminary – and secret – talks considering a possible coalition.
The parties – which came third and fourth in the election – have become co-leaders of the first post-Merkel government, whether under the SPD or the Tories, but historically distrust each other, diverging on key issues like tax increases, climate protection and public spending.
The selfie caption, which went viral, said the Greens and the FDP “were exploring common ground and bridges across divisions. And even find some ”.
Both parties are keen to avoid a repeat of the fallout from the 2017 election, when the FDP dramatically withdrew from talks to form a coalition with the Greens and Tories, citing irreconcilable differences.
The Greens have indicated they are more comfortable governing with the SPD, while the FDP was previously the coalition’s junior partner in a Conservative-led government.
The kingmaking parties plan to meet again in a more formal setting on Friday.
Scholz himself tweeted that he was “optimistic” about an alliance with the Greens and the FDP, which has been dubbed a “traffic light” coalition based on party colors.
Greens co-leader Annalena Baerbock said the first meeting with the SPD would take place on Sunday.
“We have a clear mandate for renewal in our country,” she told reporters when asked if the Greens would also consider teaming up with the Conservatives.
The FDP, however, threw a lifeline to besieged Laschet, Secretary-General Volker Wissing, announcing that his party planned to hold talks with the CDU-CSU on Saturday, a day before meeting with the SPD.
Wissing said it was “too early” to say which constellation would eventually emerge.
Merkel will remain on an interim basis throughout the coalition feuds.