Scholz says he'll have a new government by Christmas

Pressure is growing on Germany’s Social Democrats for a quick start to talks on Germany’s next government, after they squeaked to a narrow lead in Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Newly elected lawmakers held their first meetings on Tuesday and tensions simmered in outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc, which declined to its worst-ever result in the vote.

Social Democrat chief Olaf Scholz said Monday that he wants a new government before Christmas if possible. Forming a government can take weeks or months in Germany as parties thrash out in detail a new coalition’s plans.

Scholz said he hoped to start talks with the likely kingmakers in a new government, the third- and fourth-placed parties — the environmentalist Greens and the business-friendly Free Democrats. Those smaller parties hold the keys to a parliamentary majority, and their leaders say they will meet each other this week to  before entertaining advances from potential suitors.

Meanwhile, several prominent figures in Merkel’s center-right Union bloc questioned an initial push by election loser Armin Laschet to lead a new government.

The head of the Union’s youth wing, Tilman Kuban, said that “we lost the election, period.” He said the mandate to form a government lies with the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats.

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