Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have sat down for a second set of talks discussing the possibility of ruling in partnership with the ecologist Greens. Many in Germany consider this alliance unlikely, at best.
Senior Christian Democrats and Greens sat down for talks in Berlin on Tuesday evening, still considering the less likely couple to govern the country after September 22's election.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) emerged as comfortably the largest party in the poll, but fell short of the majority needed to govern. Left without her former allies, the Free Democrats, Merkel must ally with one of two parties seen to lean further to the left - either the Greens or the Social Democrats (SPD).
The second round of talks with the Greens was given a lift of sorts when it emerged that tempers flared in Monday's late-night talks between the CDU and the SPD. Neither side had very much to report after the discussions, save for an argument between Bavarian conservative Alexander Dobrindt and the SPD's state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft.
The discussions might have been soured somewhat, on the other hand, by news of a big post-election BMW donation to the CDU - confirmed shortly after Germany put the brakes on an EU plan for tougher emissions standards for passenger cars. The powerful Bavarian arm of the Christian Democrats, in particular, has voiced skepticism about working with the Greens.
'Open and sincere'
The Green party's first ever state premier, Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg, said his colleagues would be "open and sincere" in the talks. Kretschmann is considered an advocate of an alliance with the conservatives, but he admitted to harboring major doubts after the first round of exploratory talks last week.
Green party leader Cem Özdemir, effectively the only top-tier Green not to fall on his sword after a relatively disappointing election showing, billed the talks as a last real chance to find consensus. Leading Greens have until the weekend to decide whether to recommend an alliance with the CDU to their backbenchers at a party conference.
Özdemir said there were two key topics "that will be decisive" when weighing the option of a return to government.
The first, he said, was "where it all began for us, why we get up in the morning and the main reason we engage so much: That is the question of ecologically modernizing our society, of making it sustainable." Özdemir named energy, transport and agricultural policies as relevant to such a discussion.
A second, equally important, area for Özdemir was what he called an open and modern society - saying citizenship rules, equality for homosexual partners, gender equality, dealing with refugees and data protection all fell into this category.
Politicians from both sides said that the talks could conceivably run into the early hours of the morning.
msh/ph (AFP, dpa)