Angela Merkel's conservative bloc has begun talks on forging a three-way coalition. During the negotiations, all parties will have to find common ground on a slew of divisive issues, from immigration to climate policy.
Exploratory talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) allies and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) kicked off on Wednesday.
"Today was a first, very constructive, good discussion that will of, course, be followed by more discussions," Peter Tauber, CDU general secretary, told reporters following a two-hour closed-door meeting.
Party officials from the FDP and CSU were similarly upbeat about the talks, which aim to build Germany's first national three-party government.
'A good feeling'
After failing to secure a clear majority in Germany's September elections, Merkel's conservatives are hoping to govern in an alliance with the liberal FDP and the left-leaning Greens.
Tauber said he had a "good feeling" about a meeting with the Greens later in the day.
The FDP and the Greens will then hold talks separately on Thursday, with over 50 people from all parties set to gather for their first joint sit-down on Friday. If this week's exploratory talks go well, the parties will move into formal coalition negotiations.
The prospective alliance has been dubbed a "Jamaica" coalition because the colors of the parties involved match the Caribbean country's flag.
Jamaica is far away
"Jamaica and Germany are 8,500 kilometers apart," Nicola Beer of the FDP told reporters after the first round of talks with the CDU/CSU on Wednesday. "I think today the first few meters of that journey have gone well."
Merkel has acknowledged that the talks won't be easy. There are significant policy differences between staunch conservatives in the CDU/CSU, for example, and the left faction of the Greens.
No government before 2018
A number of critics in the chancellor's own bloc have called for a shift to the right after September's election saw the conservatives suffer their worst result since 1949, while the far-right Alternative for Germany party made strong gains.
CSU leader Horst Seehofer, who has been highly critical of Merkel's decision to open the borders to asylum seekers in 2015, reiterated Wednesday that limiting immigration was a "very, very important" goal.
That's a position the Greens strongly disagree with. Greens negotiator Jürgen Trittin has warned of growing populist tendencies in the CDU/CSU bloc, saying that their hardline demands on the refugee issue would present "massive hurdles."
The distribution of ministerial posts between the parties is also expected to be a tricky point of discussion.
Most analysts say it's unlikely a new government will be formed before the end of the year.
nm/rc (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)