Poll: 'grand coalition' favored in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — The defeated candidate of the main center-left party announced Friday he is resigning from his party's leadership as a poll showed most Germans want his group to join Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in a "grand coalition."

Merkel won last Sunday's parliamentary election but saw her pro-business coalition partner wiped out. With her conservatives five seats short of a parliamentary majority, Merkel is seeking an alliance with one of two center-left rivals — the Social Democrats or the smaller Greens.

The idea of a coalition with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its Christian Social Union allies is controversial within both losing parties, with many of the rank-and-file fearing they will be unable to push forward their domestic agenda.

But an ARD television poll of 1,000 people conducted Tuesday and Wednesday found 48 percent prefer a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, ahead of 18 percent support for a conservative-Green alliance. It gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 points.

The Social Democrats were holding a convention Friday to consider their next steps, amid pressure for leaders to arrange a vote among members on any deal.

During the meeting, Social Democrat standard bearer Peer Steinbrueck said he was stepping down from party and parliamentary leadership positions, according to the German news agency dpa.

"My career will come to an orderly end," dpa quoted him as saying.

Steinbrueck, who was finance minister in Merkel's 2005-2009 coalition government, had said he was not interested in serving in a new coalition with the chancellor. However, he was expected to play a role if his party decides to enter coalition talks with Merkel's bloc.