BERLIN (AP) — Germany's finance minister said Wednesday he's confident the country won't have to hold new elections after Chancellor Angela Merkel's party lost its coalition partner, but conceded that putting a new government together could drag on for some time.
Merkel's conservatives won Sunday's election but fell five seats short of an absolute majority. Their coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, were voted out of Parliament.
That left Merkel seeking an alliance with one of two center-left rivals, the Social Democrats and Greens. Neither is rushing to sign up, with both wary of turning off their supporters and signaling that they would want serious concessions as the price for taking the risk.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the weekly Die Zeit that the future governing parties will need to build confidence in coalition talks "and that could take some time."
"Since there are important decisions pending in European policy ... I would of course prefer a quicker agreement rather than a slower one," he was quoted as saying.
Merkel says she doesn't want to lead a minority government. If the deadlock isn't eventually broken, that could lead to new elections — a risky course for all parties.
"There will not be new elections," Schaeuble said. "Democratic parties must be able to work with each other once the gun smoke of the election campaign has blown over."
The two center-left parties have a "basic supply of common sense," he said.
The outgoing government remains in place until a new one takes over, and there's no legal deadline for the next government to be sworn in. The newly elected Parliament has to hold its first meeting by Oct. 22, but it doesn't have to vote in the chancellor then.
In 2005, when Merkel formed a coalition with the Social Democrats, she was sworn in more than two months after the election.