BERLIN, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- German main opponent the Social Democats (SPD) decided on Friday night to start exploratory talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc before any formal negotiation on forming a coalition government.
The center-left SPD made the decision in a 200-participant closed-door party convention which lasted for around four hours in Berlin on Friday, five days after a federal election, during which Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU) proved to be the biggest winner with 41.5 percent of votes, a victorious result but not enough to govern alone.
"We are confident in the talks," said SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel in a press conference after the convention, "Our guidelines are the contents of social democratic politics."
The exploratory talks could take place as early as next week, reported Die Welt newspaper, citing unnamed convention participant.
"We also have no fear of an election if such negotiations fail," said Gabriel.
Peer Steinbrueck, SPD's chancellor candidate whose image was damaged by gaffes and missteps during his campaign, announced in the convention to withdraw from the front row of his party, either in the party or in its parliament group, according to the report of Die Welt.
"My career will come to an orderly end," the former finance minister was quoted as saying, taking the political responsibility for SPD's poor election result of 25.7 percent of votes. Its favored ally the Greens captured 8.4 percent. The Left Party got 8.6 percent of votes.
Merkel said on Monday that she had contacted SPD's leadership on a possible coalition, but didn't rule out talks with other potential coalition partners.
"We are, of course, open for talks," she said.
An opinion poll result released by ZDF television on Friday suggested that 58 percent Germans would support a coalition between Merkel's conservatives and the SPD, as during Merkel's first term in 2005-2009.
According to a recent survey by the Forsa pollster, however, a higher share of 65 percent SPD members were against the idea, fearing that the SPD might have to compromise on some issues during its ally with the strong CDU/CSU union, and that the party's popularity might ultimately be damaged.