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Poll puts CDU ahead in Hamburg

20 February 2004

HAMBURG – Germany’s opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) may be heading for an outright victory in elections in the city-state of Hamburg next week, according to an opinion poll Friday.

The poll shows the CDU gaining 47 percent of the vote to deal a fresh blow to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats (SPD) which would enable the centre-right party to govern the state alone for the first time since World War II.

The poll on behalf of public broadcaster ZDF showed Schroeder’s SPD heading for just 29 percent in the 29 February elections – which would be its worst result in Hamburg since the war. The Greens, the junior coalition partner in Berlin, are set for 13 percent.

The result would give the CDU under mayor Ole von Beust an absolute majority of seats in the Hamburg parliament.

For the embattled Schroeder, who has seen his party’s popularity slump since gaining re-election in September 2002, it would be a further setback in what is the first of 14 elections in Germany this year at local, regional and European level.

The Hamburg election is also the first since Schroeder stepped down as SPD chairman two weeks ago in what was interpreted as a sign of his unpopularity within his own party.

The opinion poll shows the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) – who have been in coalition with the CDU – hovering under the five per cent threshold needed for a place in parliament.

Previous opinion polls have shown the CDU running neck-and-neck with the SPD/Greens.

In September 1991, the CDU managed just 26.2 percent of the vote but was able to form a three-way coalition with the FDP and the centre-right Party of the Offensive for the Rule of Law led by the controversial former judge Ronald Schill.

The coalition collapsed late last year after Beust sacked Schill as interior minister and the Law and Order party became embroiled in bitter in-fighting which led to Schill being ousted.

The party – popularly known as the Schill Party – had emerged from nowhere to gain 19.4 percent in the 2001 election but its popularity has now disintegrated.

Neither it nor the Pro DM/Schill, the new party hastily formed by Schill, is expected to gain enough votes for a place in parliament.

Beust has meanwhile not ruled out a coalition with either the Greens or the SPD, which had ruled the port city for 44 years before losing power in 2001.

“I would speak to both the SPD and the Greens,” he told the daily Hamburger Abendblatt, but indicated that a grand coalition with the SPD was unlikely.

In the ZDF survey carried put by the Mannheim research group Wahlen, just over 1,000 people were polled. Experts say an unknown late factor could be tactical voting by CDU supporters casting their votes to help the FDP into parliament.

One in three CDU voters said they could envisage voting for the FDP if it meant helping to defeat a SDP/Greens coalition.


Subject: German news