German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who aims to win a third term in 2013, said on Sunday she would talk to the opposition Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a coalition if she cannot rule with her present partners the Free Democrats (FDP).
Opinion polls signal exactly such a scenario, with a survey by Emnid on Sunday showing Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) winning 38 percent of the vote and the FDP Liberals winning just 4 percent and thereby falling short of the 5 percent threshold required to win parliamentary seats.
The poll put the SPD on 28 percent and the Greens at 14 percent, leaving them similarly unable to reach a majority.
Merkel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview she would speak to the SPD and Greens about forming a coalition as a "matter of course" if the FDP fell short.
"I'd lose all credibility if I, as a Chancellor who led a 'grand coalition' with the SPD, said I wouldn't talk to them. But I don't desire to have a 'grand coalition', rather I want to continue the Christian-Liberal government," she said.
Merkel ruled with the SPD from 2005-2009 but then formed a government in her second term with the FDP, which won a record 14.6 percent of the vote before entering a deep slump which has seen them ejected from a string of regional assemblies and now facing parliamentary extinction.
In the interview Merkel emphasized a new closeness with the Greens.
"Our relationship with the Greens has developed over the years, or you could say it has normalised," Merkel said.
"Whereas in the past there were insurmountable differences and CDU politicians had to explain themselves if they so much as ate a pizza with the Green, today there is a different tone and conversation is uncomplicated. That pleases me," she said.
The Greens are also in turn opening up to a possible alliance with the CDU, long their political arch enemy.
An election in the state of Lower Saxony on Jan. 20, currently ruled by a CDU-FDP coalition, will send vital signals on the state of the political landscape and will help set the tone for the election year.