German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Picture: REUTERS
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Picture: REUTERS

Seeon/Berlin — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chances of stitching together a government with her Social Democratic Party (SPD) rivals are good — as long as they don’t drive too hard a bargain, the head of her Bavarian sister party said.

Horst Seehofer’s comments, made on Thursday, mark the latest attempt to increase pressure on the SPD to renew its alliance with Merkel, end Germany’s political stalemate, and open the door to a fourth term for the 12-year incumbent. Preliminary coalition talks begin in Berlin on Sunday.

"This project can succeed, assuming our potential coalition partner doesn’t push things too far on the issues, which certainly is a possibility in the SPD’s current situation," Seehofer, who also is Bavaria’s state premier, told reporters at a meeting of his Christian Social Union party at an Alpine retreat.

Merkel, who’s been governing as acting chancellor with the SPD since emerging victorious from an inconclusive national election in September, is pressing for speedy coalition talks. Many SPD members are wary of serving as her junior partner for a third time after the party’s worst defeat since the Second World War in the ballot.

SPD leaders initially rejected extending the coalition but changed their mind after Merkel’s attempt to shift to the Free Democrats and the Green party as junior partners collapsed in November. Seehofer said he’ll "make very effort" to ensure talks with the SPD succeed.

Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc and the SPD agreed on ground rules for the exploratory talks on Wednesday, saying in a joint statement that "trust has grown" and they were heading into the talks with optimism.