More than a third of Ger­man vot­ers un­de­cided be­fore elec­tion, poll shows

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FEATURES & ANALYSIS - By Michael Nien­aber and Paul Car­rel

BER­LIN: Sup­port for Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives has slipped and over a third of Ger­mans are still un­sure how they will vote, an opin­ion poll showed Fri­day, fu­el­ing un­cer­tainty about what kind of coali­tion will emerge from an elec­tion on Sept. 24.

The weekly sur­vey, con­ducted by poll­ster Forschungs­gruppe Wahlen for ZDF tele­vi­sion, showed sup­port for Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive bloc fall­ing 2 points to 36 per­cent – a re­sult that would still make it the largest group in Par­lia­ment.

Sup­port for its near­est ri­vals, the left-lean­ing So­cial Democrats (SPD), rose by 1 point to 23 per­cent. The busi­ness-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the anti-im­mi­gra­tion, euro-hos­tile Alternative for Ger­many (AfD) were both at 10 per­cent.

The poll of 1,383 vot­ers, con­ducted from Sept. 12 to Sept. 14, also showed that 39 per­cent of those sur­veyed were still un­sure how they would vote.

“More than ever, all th­ese polls should be taken with a grain of salt now. There surely could be some sur­prises on elec­tion night,” said Gero Neuge­bauer, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Ber­lin’s Free Univer­sity.

He doubted the SPD could over­take Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives, who he ex­pected to be the largest par­lia­men­tary party with the So­cial Democrats the sec­ond big­gest.

“But in the fight among the smaller par­ties for third place and pos­si­ble power in a coali­tion, ev­ery­thing is still up in the air,” Neuge­bauer added.

With the elec­tion likely to in­stall six par­ties in Par­lia­ment, up from four now, Ger­many will be marked by a more frac­tured po­lit­i­cal land­scape after the vote. This could make coali­tion build­ing dif­fi­cult.

Fri­day’s poll showed sup­port for the far-left Linke stood at 9 per­cent, with the Greens at 8 per­cent.

For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel, a se­nior So­cial Demo­crat, told broad­caster SWR he fa­vored a so­called traf­fic-light coali­tion with the FDP and Greens. How­ever, the poll put sup­port for such an alliance at just 41 per­cent.

The sur­vey showed there would be suf­fi­cient sup­port for both a re­peat of the in­cum­bent “grand coali­tion” of Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives and the SPD, and for a so-called Ja­maica coali­tion of the con­ser­va­tives, F DP and Greens.

How­ever, Greens co-leader Cem Oezdemir sounded a skep­ti­cal note about a pos­si­ble three-way Ja­maica tie-up – a ref­er­ence to the par­ties’ col­ors: black (con­ser­va­tives), yel­low (FDP) and green (Greens).

“I don’t see how we should get to­gether with the FDP,” he told the daily Ber­liner Zeitung.

FDP leader Chris­tian Lind­ner also played down the like­li­hood of such an alliance. “The Greens have long since bid farewell to Ja­maica by rais­ing their de­mands to the max,” he told Der Spiegel mag­a­zine.

Lind­ner, a po­ten­tial fi­nance min­is­ter if the FDP joins a rul­ing coali­tion, also set out red lines on eu­ro­zone pol­icy ahead of po­ten­tial coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions. “I fear that Chan­cel­lor Merkel and French Pres­i­dent [Emmanuel] Macron are agreed on new pots of money in the eu­ro­zone to cre­ate a gi­gan­tic fi­nan­cial trans­fer sys­tem,” he said, be­fore tak­ing aim at Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker.

“Mr. Juncker wants to ex­pand the eu­ro­zone, though its con­sol­i­da­tion should be the pri­or­ity now. Nei­ther would be on with us,” Lind­ner added, with ref­er­ence to a trans­fer sys­tem and eu­ro­zone ex­pan­sion.

Neuge­bauer said the FDP was fish­ing in the AfD’s wa­ters.

“FDP leader Lind­ner has turned a for­mer pro-Euro­pean party into some kind of AfD-light,” he added.

The poll’s mar­gin of er­ror was some 3 per­cent­age points. With sup­port for Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives and the FDP – nat­u­ral al­lies who have ruled to­gether in the past – at 46 per­cent, the mar­gin of er­ror sug­gests they could yet squeak into power.

A sep­a­rate poll re­leased Thurs­day showed sup­port for the SPD had slumped to its low­est level this year – at 20 per­cent – with Merkel’s con­ser­va­tives steady at 37 per­cent.

“There is high volatil­ity not only be­cause of those who are still un­de­cided,” Neuge­bauer said. “There are also many swing vot­ers who change tack at the last minute for tac­ti­cal rea­sons to en­sure or pre­vent a cer­tain coali­tion op­tion.”

Peo­ple cast their vote in an ad­vance postal bal­lot for the up­com­ing gen­eral elec­tions in Ber­lin.

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