German Social Democrats in Merkel CDU coalition talks

Two day's after Germany's national election tourists walk with umbrellas in front of the German parliament building, the Reichstag, in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, 24 September, 2013.
Image caption At stake is control of the Bundestag, the federal parliament overseeing Europe's largest economy

Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) has said it will begin talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) on forming a coalition.

Mrs Merkel's party won last Sunday's poll but it needs to form an alliance with either the SPD or the Greens to ensure a majority in parliament.

SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel said party members backed the move at a meeting.

The CDU took about 41.5% of the vote. The SPD won 26%, the Greens 8.4%, and the former communist Left Party 8.6%.

Bowing out

Meanwhile, the German news agency DPA says SPD leader Peer Steinbrueck wants to withdraw from frontline politics.

Mr Steinbrueck, 66, led the Social Democrats' election campaign but he will no longer hold a leadership role in the German opposition party, a party source told DPA,

"My political life will come to an orderly end," he is reported to have said at a closed-door meeting of around 200 SPD members in Berlin.

Mr Steinbrueck used to be state premier in North Rhine-Westphalia.

A poll carried out for German ARD television earlier this week suggested that most voters wanted Mrs Merkel's Christian Democratic Union bloc to enter into a grand coalition with the Social Democrats.

Mrs Merkel has not yet indicated which parties she might reach out to in order to build a coalition building.

CDU parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder said that the party "has a clear mandate from voters to form a government". The outcome showed that "voters want Angela Merkel to remain chancellor" for a third term, he said.