Merkel bloc, rivals to begin exploratory talks

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc and the left-leaning Social Democrats will begin exploratory talks this week on forming a new "grand coalition" following this month's national elections.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Christian Social Union partners fell five seats short of a parliamentary majority in the Sept. 22 ballot due to the collapse of their pro-business Free Democratic allies.

Her Union bloc will meet Friday with the second-place Social Democratic Party to discuss a grand coalition, which polls show is the preferred choice among German voters. Merkel's followers say they are also open to talks with the third-place Green Party but no meeting has been set.

A major issue standing in the way of a grand coalition is a proposed tax increases for high earners, which the conservatives oppose.