"The reports are plainly and simply wrong", said the SPD leader, Martin Schulz, after claims in the German newspaper Bild that the two parties had agreed to begin exploratory talks on a new coalition following a meeting with the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on Thursday.
In a Facebook Live appearance, Schulz mentioned other possible options for the next government, including a minority administration and a coalition that would include the conservatives, the SPD and the Greens. It was their worst-ever election performance in post-war German history, and many Social Democrats blamed the compromises the party made as part of the grand coalition that has governed Germany for the past four years.
Even if the two sides do agree to continue, they'll first have to negotiate the prerequisites for coalition talks, then carry out the coalition talks themselves, meaning it will likely be several months before a new government is formed.
"The people have voted, and I absolutely do not favour, if we can't do anything with the result, asking people to vote again", Merkel said on Saturday at a party conference of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Kuehlungsborn, northeast Germany, Xinhua reported citing Focus Online.
Germany's new government is still in vacancy after the September 24 federal elections and the exploratory talks between the Union, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens broke down on the night of November 19. By contrast, Steinmeier - himself a former SPD leader - is known to favor the grand coalition option.
Ahead of that congress, which will also decide whether to re-elect Schulz as chief of the SPD, the party's top brass has been careful to tread softly regarding its options. Merkel has said in the past she does not want to lead a minority government.
"It's now up to the SPD to provide clarity", said CDU manager Klaus Schueler.
"We remain clear: the SPD's rejection of a continued grand coalition was mandatory and right", says the petition.
However, Schulz softened the stance on Friday as he said his party was willing to hold talks with the Union.
"Giving Emmanuel Macron a positive answer will be a key element in every negotiation with the SPD", Mr Schulz was quoted as saying in an interview on Friday.