Merkel's coalition hits winning poll position
Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government is doing better in polls than it has done for more than three years, with less than six months to go before the general election, a survey published on Wednesday showed.
If a vote were held now, her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its junior partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), would win a clear governing majority, the Forsa institute poll suggested.
The prospect of the coalition remaining in office has strengthened mainly because of the weakness of the centre-left Social Democratic Union (SPD), whose chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück has had a poor campaign start, hobbled by a series of gaffes and missteps.
Asked which candidate they preferred as chancellor, 57 percent of respondents opted for Merkel against just 19 percent for Steinbrück.
Under Merkel, the champion of tough reforms and austerity during the eurozone's debt woes, "people have the feeling that, in times of crisis, they are in safe hands with her," said Forsa institute chief Manfred Güllner.
"If the SPD had a charismatic chancellor candidate, then Merkel would also be viewed in a more critical light," he told the Stern news weekly, which commissioned the weekly poll along with RTL television.
The latest embarrassment for the SPD came this week with the launch of their election slogan Das Wir entscheidet "The 'We' decides" which, it was revealed on Wednesday, had already been used for years by a temporary employment agency.
"We had the slogan before the SPD - since 2007 in face," Christophe Cren, German head of the firm Propartner, told Der Spiegel magazine.
Not only does the mix-up suggest the SPD might be running out of campaign ideas - any embarrassment will only be magnified by taking something from a temporary employment agency.
The party is against the whole phenomenon of temporary work which is usually badly paid and offers no security. Its policies of ensuring people get paid the same for doing the same jobs - as well as introducing a minimum wage of €8.50 an hour.
Yet these ideas do not seem to be appealing to a majority of German voters. Of those who responded to the Forsa poll, 47 percent said they would vote for one of the ruling parties, the CDU or FDP.
It was the first Forsa poll since elections in late 2009 that indicated a clear ruling majority for Merkel's government over the combined support for the three main opposition parties.
The CDU scored 41 percent support in the poll and the FDP six percent, narrowly passing the five percent hurdle to stay in parliament. Both parties were up by one point from the previous survey.
The SPD lost one point to 23 percent, nearing its all-time low, and the Green party was also down one point to 14 percent. The Left, the communist successor party, was up one point at nine percent.
This gave the major opposition parties a combined 46 percent support.
The Pirate Party, which campaigns for Internet freedom and civil rights but has been torn by internal squabbles, stayed at three percent, placing it in the political death zone beyond the next elections.
Germany votes on September 22, when Merkel, one of Germany's most popular politicians, will seek a third term as chancellor, running against Steinbrück, her former finance minister in a grand coalition government.