Merkel’s Party Climbs in Poll as FDP Coalition Partner Plunges

Support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led bloc jumped to the highest level since she took office in 2005, while her pro-business Free Democratic coalition partner plunged to 2 percent, a voter poll showed.

Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, climbed one percentage point to 42 percent, while the FDP slid 2 points in today’s survey by Forsa GmbH for Stern magazine and broadcaster RTL. The opposition Social Democrats, seeking to oust Merkel under former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, fell 2 points to 25 percent, the poll showed.

Merkel’s bounce comes as Steinbrueck confronts criticism over comments that the chancellor’s salary is too low and the FDP becomes entangled in a leadership battle. While the German leader has extended her lead over the opposition, the FDP’s languishing popularity would make her unable to continue her current government coalition with the election nine months away. The FDP would miss the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament going by today’s result.

With the Green Party’s support at 15 percent, Merkel could forge a coalition with the environmental party or be forced back into a so-called Grand Coalition with the SPD that she oversaw from 2005 to 2009 with Steinbrueck as her finance minister. Her bloc has benefited from the decline of the FDP, Forsa director Manfred Guellner said.

Leadership Crisis

Almost half of the 15 percent of voters who backed the FDP four years ago now support Merkel’s CDU and the Bavarian Christian Social Union, Guellner said in Stern.

The leadership crisis with the FDP under Chairman Philipp Roesler, Germany’s economy minister, deepened at a Jan. 6 party meeting, when top party member Dirk Niebel suggested a leadership reshuffle should take place before a Jan. 20 state election in Lower Saxony.

“We must make our decisions swiftly and we cannot make them on the basis of state elections,” Niebel, Germany’s development minister, told party delegates. “Germany needs a strong FDP now.”

Meanwhile the SPD’s Steinbrueck, under fire for paid speeches to business associations and banks, compounded the ire by telling the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Dec. 30 that some bank directors earn more than the German chancellor.

“The people view him more negatively at this point,” Guellner said of Steinbrueck. The poll surveyed 1,503 German voters between Jan. 2-4 and has a 2.5 percent margin of error.

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