MUNICH (Reuters) - The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Bavarian allies, Horst Seehofer, said on Wednesday that Germany should hold a new election if members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted against a new coalition with her conservative bloc.
The SPD's 464,000 members are voting in a postal ballot on whether to endorse their party leadership's decision to renew for another four years the 'grand coalition' that took office in 2013. The result of the postal ballot is due on Sunday.
A poll released on Wednesday showed a narrow majority - 56 percent - of SPD voters in favour of a re-run of the grand coalition. However, the poll surveyed a far broader group than the party members taking part in the decisive ballot.
The conservatives, comprising Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Seehofer's Christian Social Union (CSU), only embarked on coalition talks with the SPD after negotiations with two smaller parties failed last November.
"If the second attempt at a government now fails, then we should have new elections," Seehofer told reporters in Munich, adding that he was against a minority government.
Senior officials from the CDU, CSU and SPD planned to meet on Thursday -- before the SPD ballot has ended -- to iron out outstanding issues on the formation of a coalition government, party sources said. The SPD members ballot runs until Friday.
The idea of a conservative minority government in the event of an SPD rejection has gained credence within the CDU as some party members fear a snap election could result in further gains for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
The AfD overtook the SPD for the first time in an opinion poll earlier this month, when it scored 16 percent.
In September's election the AfD won 13 percent of the vote, enabling it to enter parliament for the first time, while both the conservatives and the SPD registered their worst showing for decades.
The CDU approved the coalition deal with the SPD on Monday, bringing closer a fourth term for Merkel as well as an end to political limbo in Europe's preeminent power. The chancellor said she hoped the SPD would also back the deal.
She has been more guarded on the issue of a minority government since November, when she said after the breakdown of coalition talks with the business-friendly Free Democrats and environmentalist Greens that she would prefer new elections to leading one.
(Reporting by Joern Poltz; Writing by Paul Carrel; editing by John Stonestreet and Gareth Jones)