ANGELA Merkel has backed new elections following the collapse of coalition talks between German political parties.
The CDU leader has been Chancellor since 2005 and said she would prefer fresh elections to leading a minority government.
Dr Merkel had been hoping to form a coalition with the liberal FDP and the Greens, a so-called "Jamaica coalition” - but the chasm between the parties was too great.
Germany's President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who holds the power to start the process of calling fresh elections, has called on the parties to "reconsider their attitudes” and form a new government.
If no coalition can be formed with a majority, the President must nominate a candidate for Chancellor. If no government can be formed after three rounds of voting in the Bundestag, fresh elections will be called.
He aims to avert a political crisis in what has long been the most stable country in the EU.
"I expect the parties to make the formation of a new government possible in the foreseeable future,” Mr Steinmeier said in a televised statement, adding that the parties had a responsibility that "cannot be simply given back to the voters”.
Germany held its last elections in September, where Ms Merkel's centre-right CDU/CSU came out on top but lacked a governing majority.
A continuation of the previous government, a coalition with the CDU/CSU and the centre-left SPD, is out of the question because the SPD has said it wants to return to opposition - a stance reiterated by its leader Martin Schulz yesterday.
After weeks of talks, the FDP dropped out, despite having agreed to moderate its demands for tax cuts. "I regret, with all due respect to the FDP, that we could not come to a mutual agreement,” Ms Merkel said in a statement earlier on Monday.
Ms Merkel, who said on Monday evening she was "very sceptical” about a minority government, wants to continue as leader of her party, though a leadership challenge to her authority is not thought to be out of the question.
This year's elections were notable with big gains for Alternative for Deutschland, the first far-right party to enter the Bundestag in half a century. - Jon Stone, The Independent