That will take time, Altmaier says, looking into the shocked faces surrounding him.
With its current provisional government, Germany is in the process of gambling away its excellent political reputation in Europe.
The idea of joining Merkel in another governing coalition is anathema to many in the SPD while some conservatives have been vocal about their preference for a minority government, a position they share with a number of SPD members.
That means that Merkel is faced with fighting a battle on two fronts: One pitting her against the critics in her own camp; and one aimed at convincing the Social Democrats to join her.
If they do, he said, he would also be in favor of a minority government."You have to put a stop to it," Seehofer told Merkel.Both Seehofer and Merkel would like the talks with the SPD to go as quickly as possible.The constitutional situation in Germany, he notes, is complicated.Furthermore, if a renewed coalition between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) -- a pairing known as a "grand coalition" -- does, in fact, take shape, the SPD has said it plans to have the grassroots vote on it.Important decisions are being delayed, Germany's heft in Europe and the world is eroding and -- perhaps most importantly -- the standstill in Berlin is bolstering populist critiques of the parliamentary system and their claims that the political elite only care about their own parties and not the good of the country as a whole.'Embarrassing Display' With the first round of coalition negotiations -- which sought to assemble a government comprised of the conservatives, the FDP and the Greens -- having failed, a clear majority of Germans believe the country to be "in a difficult situation" according to surveys.And now the country can't even seem to assemble a governing coalition. For the time being, the damage done isn't overwhelming.The acting cabinet, in office since October, has been leading the republic with the listless efficiency one might expect.Preferences for a Minority Government The problem, though, is that among her conservatives, enthusiasm for the alliance with the SPD isn't nearly as profound.Indeed, the intransigence has become so unabashed that Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), saw fit to complain.