German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives may forge a coalition with the Greens at regional level after suffering losses in a state election on Sunday, a link-up which could be a model for the federal level.
A partnership in the port city of Hamburg would be the first at the state level in Europe's biggest economy and could change the political landscape before 2009's federal election.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) lost their absolute majority in Hamburg's Sunday election but remained the strongest party with the option of creating a coalition.
The CDU is left with two choices because its preferred partner, the liberal Free Democrats, did not win enough votes to enter state parliament.
It could pursue a left-right "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats (SPD), which would mirror Merkel's fractious national partnership, or a tie-up with the Greens.
Although the CDU and Greens disagree on a number of policies, a link-up could change the dynamics of Germany's system and has attracted support from some top CDU figures.
"I believe it would be good for Hamburg and the political scene in Germany if a new alliance of the CDU and Greens were possible," CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla, a close Merkel ally, told German television on Monday.
The CDU and its Bavarian sister party have 225 seats in Germany's lower federal house of parliament, compared with 222 for the SPD. The Greens are the smallest party with 51 seats, while the liberal Free Democrats are on 61 and the Left has 53.
The Greens ruled at a federal level with the SPD until 2005.
The Hamburg vote is the second state election in a month to deliver results which raise the possibility of new coalition pairings amid growing disillusionment with Merkel's ruling coalition which has descended into sniping over recent months.
Analysts expect a policy standstill and mounting tensions between the parties before the federal vote and it is unclear whether Merkel will hold her strong personal popularity ratings.
Another result of the growing disillusionment is the electoral success of the Left party, a group of ex-Communists and disgruntled former SPD members set up last year, which has also opened up new possibilities.
SPD leader Kurt Beck is under fire inside his own party after refusing to deny reports his party would rely on Left votes to get its candidate elected as premier in the western state of Hesse after an election last month.
Some in the SPD have blamed Beck, who cancelled engagements on Monday due to illness, for the party's second worst result in Hamburg since World War Two.
But commentators say new political tie-ups are needed.
"German democracy is in the creche of a five-party system, it will take time before it can all function properly," wrote the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "Old resentments must be packed away and new alliances must be risked."
There are obstacles to a Greens-CDU tie-up.
While Merkel's centre-right party represents business interests, the Greens stress environmental issues -- in particular they oppose CDU plans to deepen the Elbe river to allow bigger ships into Europe's second-biggest port.
The CDU and Greens already work together at city level including the financial centre of Frankfurt.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Şubat 2008, 14:09