The two parties between them would have enough votes to form a clear majority government, but would have to overcome differences on policy and principles. A Social Democratic official who declined to be identified, because of the sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the meeting would take place after both parties met with their traditional allies first.
A Christian Democratic official, also speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason, confirmed talks with Social Democrats this week but did not specify a day. The news came as two prominent politicians from the left and right indicated that such a "grand coalition" would be the best way out of Germany's political muddle. But they disagreed on Merkel and Schroeder's clashing claims to become chancellor.
Voters ousted Schroeder's ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens on Sunday, but withheld a majority from the Christian Democrats and their partners, the pro-business Free Democrats.
The result has been a confused scramble for power. Social Democratic Interior Minister Otto Schily gave a nod toward a possible left-right government in an interview published today in Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. "The needle is oscillating more toward a grand coalition under the leadership of Schroeder," Schily said.