Grand coalition likely German election result
14 September 2005, BERLIN - A grand coalition led by challenger Angela Merkel appeared the likely result of close German elections four days before voters cast ballots in Europe's biggest economy, polls showed. Among the wild cards in final days of campaigning is new poll showing a surprising 30 per cent of the electorate still undecided, suggesting the election is wide open. But with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic-Greens government trailing Merkel's centre-right bloc by up to 8 percentag
14 September 2005
BERLIN - A grand coalition led by challenger Angela Merkel appeared the likely result of close German elections four days before voters cast ballots in Europe's biggest economy, polls showed.
Among the wild cards in final days of campaigning is new poll showing a surprising 30 per cent of the electorate still undecided, suggesting the election is wide open.
But with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic-Greens government trailing Merkel's centre-right bloc by up to 8 percentage points, commentators increasingly pointed to a "grand coalition" of Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) as the most likely outcome.
The latest Allensbach agency poll gave 41.7 per cent to the CDU/CSU and 7 per cent for their liberal Free Democratic (FDP) allies.
With a total of 48.7 per cent - Merkel's centre-right will be just short of a parliamentary majority.
Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) are 32.9 per cent, with their Greens allies on 7.2 per cent, yielding a total of 40.1 per cent.
The Left Party, comprising the former East German communists with a western splinter group, have the support of 8.5 per cent, according to the poll.
Although both Merkel and Schroeder have spoken out against a "grand coalition" of their two parties, senior party members have openly discussed the possibility.
The SPD prime minister of Rhineland-Palatinate state, Kurt Beck, said the SPD should be open to all coalitions, other than with the Left Party. Schroeder has also categorically rejecgted an alliance with the Left Party.
The joint leaders of the Greens, Claudia Roth and Reinhard Buetikofer, ruled out another possible coalition which some analysts predict could keep Schroeder in power.
A three-way coalition with the ruling SPD-Greens taking on the liberal FDP, was dismissed by Greens leaders because the pro-business FDP is "the party of social exclusion and environmental unreason".
But other Greens were less categorical. Junior minister Matthias Berninger said in an interview with Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper that the main priority was to pursue environmentally sound policies.
"We will have more success with that in government than in opposition," he said.
FDP vice-chairman Rainer Bruederle also rejected entering into government with the Greens, restating the party's official "no" to any SPD-Green-FDP government.
Although Schroeder's SPD has surged in the polls over the past 10 days, commentators were near-unanimous that he could not stay in office.
Political scientist Juergen Falter of the University of Mainz said Schroeder might at best be in a position to prevent a CDU/CSU coalition with the FDP and force a grand coalition.
"But he cannot remain chancellor," Falter told Bavarian radio.
Schroeder seemed undeterred by the polls and appears fighting fit on the political trail. The Chancellor insists that the SPD can make up the necessary ground among the undecided voters to stay in government with the Greens.
Schroeder continued to lash out at Merkel's fiscal policies, taking as his target Merkel's prospective finance minister, Paul Kirchhof, an academic from one of Germany's most distinguished universities.
The chancellor never mentions the tax expert by name, referring to him only as "that professor from Heidelberg", castigating his pensions policy as equating people with objects at rally after rally.
The CDU/CSU has responded by stressing that Kirchhof's idea of a flat rate of income tax at 25 per cent is not in the party manifesto. They plan instead to cut the top rate to 39 from 42 per cent.
Subject: German news