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SPD, Greens and Left: A bloc to bring down Merkel, CDU?

The Social Democrats, Left and Greens appear to be entertaining notions of a coalition. The parties met in Berlin to hammer out a vision of a Germany without Chancellor Angela Merkel at the helm after next September.

About 100 members of the Social Democrats (SPD), Left and Greens parties met to assess their common vision, though polls say the parties would fall short of the necessary majority to form a "red-red-green" government- a reference to the parties' colors - that would topple Angela Merkel. A survey last week showed the SPD with 22 percent support, the Greens with 11 percent, and the Left at 10 percent.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel - Merkel's vice chancellor - even dropped by Tuesday's meeting, causing alarm for the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their uneasy Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union. "Now it's official!" CSU General Secretary Andreas Scheuer told Germany's DPA press agency. "The left front has set itself in motion. Now everyone knows it: The goal is a left-wing republic with red-red-green. The masks are off. This left front will massively damage Germany."

With 34 percent support, according to a recent poll, the CDU and CSU, would remain the Bundestag's biggest bloc. Merkel could also woo the Greens, though the parties don't have the support to govern alone together. The neoliberal Free Democrats - with whom the CDU governed from 2009 until the party failed to meet the 5 percent Bundestag threshold in 2013 - could return to parliament next year, giving Merkel another potential partner.

Merkel beats Gabriel head-to-head, as well. As a result, some SPD members have begun to consider Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, as a possible candidate to take on the chancellor, should she indeed decide to run, as many political analysts expect she will.

'An exchange!'

The SPD and Left have so far failed to agree on a common nominee for next year's vote on the largely ceremonial post of German president, underlining the difficulties the three parties would face in forging a government to end the reign that Merkel took up in 2005. The centrist SPD had two previous opportunities to work with the Left and the Greens, in 2005 and 2009, but forwent them both in order to govern with Merkel in grand coalitions and keep the smaller parties at the margins. The three parties also differ on several issues, including Germany's involvement in international military operations.

"We do not want to decide anything concrete," Left parliamentary leader Jan Korte said ahead of Tuesday's meeting. "It is all about an exchange concerning the situation."

Coalition-building could change dramatically next year, with the rise of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded just three years ago, the party has merged populist social policy, with conservative thinking and an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim platform to appear set to enter the Bundestag next year.

mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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