BERLIN -- Three German political parties said Tuesday that they hope to clinch a deal next week to form a new government, keeping center-left leader Olaf Scholz on track to become Germany's new chancellor in early December.
Scholz's Social Democrats narrowly won the country's national election in late September. Talks on a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats, both of which also made gains in the election, opened last month.
If the negotiations are successful, the new alliance will send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Union bloc into opposition.
Few details have emerged as negotiators have largely fulfilled a pledge to keep the talks confidential. Party leaders on Monday started ironing out disputed points after leaving working groups to discuss various policy areas in recent weeks.
“We aim to achieve a coalition agreement next week" and to keep to the target of having parliament elect Scholz as Merkel's successor during the week that starts Dec. 6, according to the Greens' general secretary, Michael Kellner.
His party recently raised question marks over the timetable, but Kellner said he was “satisfied with many of the preliminary results,” although some tough issues remain.
“We have agreed on a lot already, but of course there are conflicts that we will talk about intensively in the final days," Social Democratic Party General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said. “I am firmly convinced that we will manage it.”
A coalition deal would require approval from a ballot of the Greens' members and conventions of the other two parties before the new government can take office.
The potential alliance brings together two traditionally left-leaning parties with one, the Free Democrats, that has tended to ally with the center-right.
A preliminary agreement last month left a lot of open questions. It called for Germany to accelerate its exit from coal-fueled power, currently due by 2038, so it “ideally” happens by 2030, and speed up “drastically” the expansion of renewable energy generation.
At the Free Democrats’ insistence, the prospective partners said they won’t raise taxes or loosen curbs on running up debt, making financing a central issue.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, meanwhile, is focused on electing a new leader after incumbent Armin Laschet led the Union bloc — the two-party bloc the CDU dominates — to defeat and its worst-ever election result.
Prominent conservative Friedrich Merz on Monday became the third candidate to make a bid for the party leadership, his third try in as many years.
Norbert Roettgen, a former environment minister who has chaired parliament’s foreign policy committee in recent years, and Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, threw their hats into the ring on Friday. Both are centrists, while Merz has generally appealed more to traditional conservatives.
The CDU plans to hold a vote of the party's roughly 400,000 members to choose a new leader.
A first round of voting will be held online and by mail in early December. If a runoff ballot is required, it would take place in mid-January. A party congress Jan. 21-22 would officially sign off on the result.
The outcome is hard to predict. Merz and Roettgen both ran in the contest won by Laschet in January, but Braun's candidacy was unexpected.
Follow AP’s coverage of Germany’s transition to a new government at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election