Merkel hits record poll high at start of election year
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives hit a record high in an opinion survey on Wednesday, nine months before national elections in Germany and 11 days ahead of a crucial regional poll.
Merkel's centre-right alliance of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their CSU Bavarian sister party climbed to 42 percent in the Forsa poll, its highest level since she was first elected chancellor in 2005.
In contrast, Germany's main opposition party, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), lost two points, dropping to 25 percent, their worst result since April 2012.
The head of the Forsa polling organisation, Manfred Guellner, put the SPD's decline down to their gaffe-prone candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrueck, who has been dogged by communication blunders since the start of his campaign.
"People see him in a negative light. To compare: when Gerhard Schroeder became chancellor candidate in 1998, that sparked a pull towards the SPD. Steinbrueck on the other hand is pulling the party down," Guellner said.
The poll boosts Merkel ahead of a critical election in the northern state of Lower Saxony on January 20, seen as a bellwether for national elections on September 22.
However, Merkel's current coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), also slumped in the poll, dropping by two points to two percent.
German parties need at least five percent of the vote to win seats in the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the FDP is fighting for its political survival amid sniping at the party leader, Economy Minister Philipp Roesler.
Other parties on the left made gains, as disillusioned SPD voters apparently drift towards either the ecologist Greens (up two points to 15 percent) or the far-left Linke party (up one point to nine percent).
If polls stay as they are, Merkel would be forced to change her coalition partner to form a government, either building a "grand coalition" with the SPD or a less likely alliance with the Greens.
The Forsa survey for Stern magazine and RTL television was conducted between January 2 and 4, with 1,503 voters polled.
© 2013 AFP