German SPD Gains Support as Steinbrueck Leads Bid to Oust Merkel

Germany’s Social Democrats climbed to their highest rating in more than a year following the selection of Peer Steinbrueck as chancellery candidate, siphoning support from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc, a weekly poll showed.

The SPD gained three points to 29 percent, the most since September last year, while Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc fell three points to 35 percent, according to the Forsa survey published today. It was the first public poll that includes responses since Steinbrueck’s bid for the 2013 election was announced.

“He’s unified his own faction behind him to some extent,” Peter Matuschek, a Forsa analyst, said in a phone interview. “Still, this poll should be taken with caution to see whether this boost holds. Merkel is still well ahead.”

The survey indicates some potential for the 65-year-old Steinbrueck, Germany’s finance minister in Merkel’s first Cabinet and a critic of the chancellor’s euro policy as excessively focused on reining in public debt.

Steinbrueck was officially selected by the SPD leadership yesterday and promptly laid into Merkel’s current government as “one of the worst” in post-World War II Germany.

The Forsa poll placed Merkel’s current coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party, below the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament for a second week, diminishing the chances for Merkel to press on with the current alignment.

The survey of some 3,000 German voters was taken between Sept. 24 and Sept. 28, with about 1,000 polled the day Steinbrueck’s candidacy was first announced, Sept. 28, Matuschek said. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.

‘Not Unproblematic’

“He’s not an unproblematic candidate for the SPD,” Matuschek said. “He’s accepted as a finance expert, but also a bit of a technocratic, whereas Merkel has a more generalized competence.”

The SPD’s preferred coalition partner, the environmental Green Party, was unchanged at 12 percent, not enough to muster a majority and leaving the most probable outcome a reprisal of the 2005-2009 “grand coalition” between Merkel’s CDU as well as its Bavarian CSU sister party and the SPD.

The anti-capitalist Left Party and the Pirate Party, a protest movement of web activists, polled at 8 percent and 7 percent respectively, according to the survey. Both major parties have ruled out forming a coalition with the two.

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