The first-ever coalition at state level between the Green party and Angela Merkel's conservatives could be on the cards after the Christian Democrats lost their absolute majority in Hamburg.
Could Hamburg shake up Germany's political landscape?
Incumbent mayor Ole Von Beust (CDU) has said he is planning to hold a first round of coalition talks with both the Green party and the Social Democrats (SPD) respectively.
The heads of the two parties signaled on Sunday, Feb. 24, that they would, at least, tolerate this mould-breaking coalition.
Hamburg's mayor welcomed this shift. "I am generally glad that thinking has become more open." He also added in his interview with the German broadcaster NDR that Chancellor Angela Merkel had given him a free hand to decide with which party to form a coalition.
Referring to a possible coalition with the Greens, von Beust said it would be interesting. "But the agenda has got to be right," he stressed.
Playing hard to get?
Final results won't actually be out until Wednesday
The leader of Hamburg's Greens, Christa Goetsch, has, however, expressed reservations, saying that she saw little common ground. Local Green party members are set to decide on the matter on Thursday.
Preliminary results from the city state give von Beust 42.6 percent, down from 47 percent four years ago.
According to exit polls, the center-left SPD gained 34.1 percent, increasing their share of the vote by 4 percent. The Greens dropped from 12.3 to 9.6 percent.
The free-market liberal Free Democrats did not make the 5-percent hurdle required to enter parliament, while the Left party established its presence after taking a 6.4-percent share of the vote.
Conventional choices impossible
Hamburg's results could affect Berlin
The results mean that neither the conservatives nor the Social Democrats can form coalitions with their preferred political partners, FDP and the Greens respectively.
The situation is made more complicated by the fact that the exact balance of power in the state parliament will not be known until Wednesday when the official final results will be announced. The delay is linked with introduction of a new voting system in the city.
CDU Secretary General Ronald Pofalla (CDU) said: "I believe that it would do Hamburg good, if there was a coalition between the CDU and the Greens."
He told the German broadcaster N24 that it would be a good opportunity to test this combination. "We would have the opportunity to see for a year, or a year-and-a-half how this cooperation works."
At the same time, Pofalla stressed in an interview with the radio station Bayrischer Rundfunk that this did not undermine the future of the current grand coalition between the SPD and the conservatives. "There we have a responsibility to the state," he said.
Green party chairman Reinhard Buetikofer said the Greens would talk to Hamburg's mayor, "if Ole von Beust wants to talk to us". But he warned: "No one should imagine that the Greens will form a prop for a mayor, who has lost his majority, and wants to continue his previous policies."
Some commentators accuse Beck of clumsiness
Christa Sager, a Green member of parliament for Hamburg, has also spoken out in favor of exploratory talks. She also blamed the Left party for splitting the left-wing vote and preventing the removal of the conservatives altogether. "The Left party has stopped the SPD and the Green party gaining a majority."
Mathematically speaking, a coalition between the SPD, the Greens and the Left party would be possible in the northern German city, but this has been ruled out by the SPD's top candidate, Michael Naumann.
Kurt Beck criticized for possibly ill-timed comments
He has criticized national party chairman Kurt Beck for scaring off some voters by raising the possibility of tacit cooperation with the Left party in the state of Hesse, where a government has still not been formed four weeks after the vote.
Up to now, the Social Democrats have strictly ruled out working with the party -- a broad far-left grouping that includes disaffected former Social Democrats and former East German communists -- in western Germany. Several coalitions exist in eastern Germany, including in the capital, Berlin.
The rise of the party is currently causing a considerable shake-up in Germany's political landscape. While the last three state elections have seen a swing to the left, this has not translated into a straightforward rise in support for the Social Democrats. The split in the vote is leading to parties beginning to think the previously unthinkable.