'No shift left with us', vows would-be German kingmaker Lindner

FILE PHOTO: Leader of the German Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner speaks during a session of the Bundestag, the country's parliament, ahead of the EU summit, in Berlin, Germany, March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany will not lurch to the left with a ruling coalition that includes the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), party chief Christian Lindner said on Thursday ahead of a Sept. 26 national election after which he aims to play kingmaker in coalition negotiations.

Opinion polls indicate that no two parties will command a comfortable majority after the vote, offering the FDP the chance to wield outsized influence in the era following Angela Merkel's exit after 16 years in power.

Polling 11-13% now, the FDP would like to rule with Merkel's conservatives, and probably the Greens, but a late surge by the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) has raised the prospect https://reut.rs/3DIzZNV of a so-called red-green-yellow or "traffic light" coalition.

Dubbed the party of doctors and dentists, the business-friendly FDP is wary of alienating its voter base before the election and Lindner ruled out any tax rises, sounding cool on 'traffic light' coalition option that would combine FDP, the conservatives, and the SPD.

"With the FDP, there will be no shift to the left in German politics," Lindner said in Berlin, holding out the possibility of exploring a coalition government with the conservatives and Greens even if the SPD wins most votes.

"We will only enter a government of the middle," he said, echoing the mantra of Armin Laschet, CDU/CSU conservative bloc's candidate to succeed Merkel as chancellor.

In power since 2005, Merkel plans to stand down after the election.

The FDP, the party of such giants of German politics as late foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, has been in national government before, mostly in coalitions with the CDU/CSU or the SPD.

After Germany's last election in 2017, the FDP entered talks with the conservatives and Greens on forming a so-called "Jamaica" coalition, named after their respective party colours which match the Caribbean nation's flag. But Lindner walked out, infuriating the others and forcing a repeat of the conservatives' awkward "grand coalition" with the SPD.

This time around, he is playing it cool.

"We will join the talks we are invited to," he told Reuters earlier this week.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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