Members of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) have advocated for a three-way left wing alliance as an alternative to a fragile “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats at the weekend.
The future of the German government is in doubt as tensions simmer, following the SPD’s poor performance in recent regional and European elections. It secured just 16 per cent of the vote at the European elections, 11 percentage points below its previous.
SPD chief Andrea Nahles stepped down in June after voters turned away despite the party securing key wins on migration and energy in government.
SPD members have called for the party to leave the coalition and shift towards the left, a move that would hasten Merkel's exit and could lead to a snap election, a minority government or an unwieldy three-way alliance.
Agreements with the Greens, who have even overtaken the conservatives in some opinion polls, and the radical Left, replacing East Germany's Communists, look likely.
Deputy SPD leader Ralf Stegner told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that "of course" a leftist alliance was "the strategic alternative to one with the conservatives."
Malu Dreyer, one of three caretaker leaders of the SPD, also raised the possibility.
"We need other constellations to boost our credibility. One option is of course a coalition of the SPD, Greens and Left," she told Saturday's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Their comments add weight to a chorus from the party's left for such a three-way alliance which has never been tested at the national level but is working in two federal states.
One of Europe's biggest centre-left parties, the SPD alternated power with the conservatives for generations but taking on the role of junior partner under Merkel for two straight terms has led to a slump in polls.
The three parties are also trying to forge a leftist coalition in the state of Bremen although the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) won most votes in a May vote there. This has sent a signal to the CDU that they cannot bank on keeping power by coming first in elections.
Merkel protege and CDU chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has touted defying some in her party by working alongside the Greens.
"Anyone who dreams of a new government and votes Green must know they can wake up with the Left party," she told Bild am Sonntag. "Bremen shows: if in doubt, the Greens don't go for conservative policies but to the left."