Talks to form a grand coalition between the major parties in the German state of Saarland have broken down, with early regional elections due to be held instead. The poll would also have an impact at the national level.
Talks on a transitional government in the south-western German state of Saarland broke down on Thursday, almost two weeks after the regional coalition collapsed.
An early election will now be called after Christian Democrat (CDU) Saarland state premier Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and her center-left Social Democrat (SPD) counterpart failed to reach agreement on a new temporary administration.
The election means that Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition now faces a second potentially damaging political test this year.
No election date has yet been set, with no short-term coalition arrangement planned in the meantime. The SPD had originally called for the election to take place in 2013, but this was resisted by the CDU.
"We need to have a mandate for five years," the CDU governor said on Thursday after the three-hour head-to-head talks with the SPD leader Heiko Maas came to a close. Although differences would remain between existing coalition partners after the election, Kramp-Karrenbauer voiced confidence that these would be resolved in talks.
"Our responsibility to the state demands that we have a stable situation," said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Maas said it was "imperative" that the elections should take place quickly, suggesting that polling day should be March 25 - the earliest possible date under Germany's constitution. "It has become clear that we need to find a way forward that goes beyond the year 2013 or 2014," said Maas.
Internal party problems blamed
The former shaky alliance of the Merkel's CDU party, the pro-market Free Democrats (FDP) and left-leaning Greens was disbanded on January 6. Problems within the FDP were cited as a reason for the difficulties by Kramp-Karrenbauer, who claimed the party was making the region "ungovernable."
Support for the FDP - the junior partner in Merkel's coalition - has dropped markedly since Germany's last general election in 2009.
The northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein is already set to go to the polls this year, on May 6. Recent regional elections have seen the ruling coalition lose its majority in the German upper house, the Bundesrat, making it harder for the government to push through federal legislation.
Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill, Richard Connor (AP, dapd, dpa)
Editor: Nicole Goebel