Victorious Merkel looking for ally
Coalition ends after partners lose seats
Chancellor Angela Merkel was faced with the intractable task of finding a willing coalition partner for her triumphant Christian Democrats (CDU) after winning a historic victory in the German general election, but falling just short of gaining an absolute majority.
Germany's first woman leader steered her conservatives to a landslide win, securing 41.5pc of the vote in what was the best performance by her party in nearly 20 years.
"She alone secured the triumph for her party," said the magazine 'Der Spiegel'.
Ms Merkel undoubtedly owed her victory to her perceived success in mastering the eurozone crisis and to Germany's flourishing economy and low unemployment.
Having won a third term in office, Ms Merkel is now in a position to overtake Margaret Thatcher as Europe's longest-serving female head of government.
But her landslide victory was also a product of the disastrous performance of her coalition partners , the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). The pro-business party was ousted from parliament for the first time in its history on Sunday after failing to secure the necessary 5pc of the vote to win seats.
Ms Merkel anticipated her party's dilemma only hours after polls closed.
Asked about possible coalition partners in an interview on German television, she said: "We may find ourselves in a position where nobody wants to join us."
That spectre loomed large yesterday. Ms Merkel wore a necklace comprising alternate black and green coloured stones on Sunday in a gesture that was interpreted as a coded message that she wanted to form a government with the Greens.
Despite enthusiasm for the idea expressed by some CDU MPs yesterday, the Greens, who suffered substantial losses in the election, appeared not to relish the prospect.
"Despite my huge powers of imagination, I cannot envisage how we could come to a joint agreement with Ms Merkel and the Christian Democrats," said Renate Kunast, the Green party parliamentary leader.
Sharing government with the conservatives was also given an initial rebuff by the opposition Social Democrats, who slightly increased their share of the vote to 25.7pc.