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Merkel's likely new partners aim to ballot members on entering government by mid-December

Germany's main center-left party aims to ballot members on whether to join conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel in government by mid-December — potentially clearing the way for Merkel to be sworn in for a third term before Christmas.

The Social Democrats are in talks with Merkel's Union bloc on forming a new coalition after the conservatives won September elections, but saw their previous pro-business partners voted out of parliament.

The center-left party will seek approval of a coalition agreement from its entire 470,000-strong membership.

In a letter to members Friday, party leaders say they plan to begin the ballot Dec. 6 and announce the results by Dec. 15. A "yes" vote would clear the way for an end to Germany's postelection political limbo; meantime, the outgoing Cabinet remains in office.