He had always believed that the ruling coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel would somehow hold on until the next scheduled federal elections in 2013, he told Saturday's Saarbrücker Zeitung .
Now, he said, he is not sure the coalition of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and her coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats will make it.
He said that the chancellor would have to secure a majority in the parliamentary vote on the European Stability Mechanism in the autumn, otherwise “it is the end of the coalition.”
Asked if the SPD would need to bring forward its decision on whom to put up as its chancellor candidate, Steinmeier said: “If the government acknowledges that it is finished, then we will be prepared. And that also includes personnel.”
Steinmeier would not be drawn on his own ambitions or those of former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück, often tipped as a potential chancellor candidate. Rather, he said that the current debate about who would lead the SPD into the next election showed that the public was expecting the next chancellor to be a Social Democrat.