German far left courts SPD and Greens for three-way coalition

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's far-left Linke pitched themselves on Monday as would-be coalition partners for the Social Democrats and Greens after a Sept. 26 election, arguing they offer the two larger parties the best chance of delivering their social policies.

A surge by the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) into a clear lead in polls over Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives has focused attention in Germany and beyond on possible coalition options https://reut.rs/3DIzZNV after the closely fought election.

At stake is the future course of Germany, Europe's largest economy and most populous country, after 16 years of steady, centre-right leadership under Merkel. She plans to step down after the election.

An INSA poll for mass-selling daily Bild published on Monday showed the SPD extending its lead with 26% support, ahead of the conservatives on 20.5% and the Greens on 15.5%. The business-friendly Free Democrats were on 12.5% and the Linke on 6.5%.

"We are ready to take on government responsibility," Dietmar Bartsch, who leads the Linke in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament), told reporters.

Olaf Scholz, the SPD candidate for chancellor, said on Sunday he wanted to rule with the left-leaning Greens https://reut.rs/3kWMDQD. Polls suggest, however, that he would need the support of a third party to reach a stable majority in parliament.

Such a three-way tie-up points to an SPD/Greens alliance with either the Free Democrats (FDP), who would rather team up with the conservatives, or with the Linke, heirs to the Communist Party that ruled old East Germany for four decades.

Both the SPD and the Greens would be uncomfortable with such a red-green-red coalition, which conservatives say would mean a big lurch away from Germany's centrist mainstream https://reut.rs/3jHKQQ2.

Scholz has repeatedly distanced himself from the Linke, calling the party unfit for government so long as it does not clearly commit to the NATO military alliance, the transatlantic partnership with the United States, and solid public finances.

The Linke said they offer the SPD and Greens the best chance of delivering on their campaign pledges, such as raising the national minimum wage, increasing taxes on the super rich and accelerating the shift towards renewable energy.

For the SPD and Greens to lean right and instead team up with the FDP would be "electoral fraud", Bartsch said, as they could no longer deliver on their campaign pledges.

Conservative candidate Armin Laschet's promise of "steadfastness" is failing to resonate with voters worried about climate change, immigration and the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Christian Kraemer and Paul Carrel; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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