Merkel faces return to coalition as support rises for rival Green Party

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SUPPORT for Germany’s opposition Greens is at its highest level this year after their new leaders made a pitch for conservative voters ahead of next year’s federal elections, a new opinion poll shows.

The Forsa poll, which coincides with increased media speculation about a possible future coalition between the Greens and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, put the Greens at 16 per cent, up three percentage points from the previous survey.

More than one in three Germans would welcome such a coalition, said the poll, published in Stern magazine. Women and younger voters were particularly positive about such a coalition.

At a three-day party congress last weekend, Greens including Katrin Goring-Eckardt, a newly elected party leader and prominent Lutheran, made clear their ambition to lure voters away from Merkel in the countdown to next September’s election.

Merkel’s conservatives were down three percentage points at 36 per cent in the Forsa poll, though they remain Germany’s most popular party, ahead of their main rival, the Social Democrats (SPD). They were unchanged from the previous week at 26 per cent.

The poll put Merkel’s current junior coalition partner, the 
pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), at 4 per cent – below the 5 per cent threshold needed to win seats in parliament.

If the poll results were repeated in the election, political analysts say the most likely outcome would be another 
unwieldy “grand coalition” of Merkel’s conservatives and the SPD, like the one she led from 2005 to 2009.

But with the SPD’s candidate for chancellor, Peer Steinbrueck, ruling out such a deal, a coalition between Merkel and the Greens would also be an option.

The Greens have already proved they can attract conservatives. Last year they stunned Merkel by winning control of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, traditionally a conservative bastion, with the SPD as junior partners.

Under Winfried Kretschmann, Germany’s first Green state premier, they have won a reputation as a “safe pair of hands”.

The SPD and the Greens say they want to form a national coalition and end Merkel’s 
rule, but yesterday’s poll results suggest they would fall short of a majority.