German SPD’s record low in poll puts strain on Merkel’s coalition

June 15, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Support for Germany’s Social Democrat (SPD) party, a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition, has slumped to a record low, a poll showed on Saturday, piling more pressure on it to quit the government and rebuild in opposition.

There is rising scepticism that Merkel’s coalition will survive until 2021 after SPD leader Andrea Nahles quit two weeks ago in the wake of her party’s losses in European Parliament elections and a regional vote in the state of Bremen.

The troubled centre-left SPD had the backing of 11% of respondents in a Forsa poll, a decline of one point from a week ago. It marked its lowest level of support since 1949 and placed it in fourth, behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on 13%.

The resurgent Greens remain the most popular party, with 27%, attracting voters disenchanted with the ruling coalition and concerned about climate change.

Merkel’s conservatives were unchanged at 24%, a record low.

The national survey will cast a shadow over a government meeting this weekend near Berlin to discuss a planned coal exit, pensions, rising housing costs and property tax reforms.

The SPD, punished by voters who feel the party has lost its working-class ethos, has appointed a trio of caretakers before starting the process to find a permanent replacement for Nahles.

“The SPD has made millions of former voters (politically) homeless,” said Forsa chief Manfred Guellner. “A lot of those former voters would like to give their vote to the SPD, but they can’t do so because the SPD for years has been taking care of a few remaining members instead of the many voters it lost.”

Merkel has dismissed concerns about the stability of the coalition and said she plans to serve a full term until 2021.

The coalition partners will hold a midterm review in the autumn, which could be an opportunity for the SPD to pull out of the alliance – a scenario favoured by members disenchanted with power-sharing with the right.

That would leave Germany facing the possibility of a snap election, a minority government or an unwieldy alliance of three blocs.

Any of those outcomes would be likely to hasten the exit of Merkel, who has served 14 years as chancellor. After handing over the leadership of her Christian Democrats (CDU) to protege Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, she has said she will not stand again as chancellor of Europe’s biggest economy.

Forsa polled 2,001 people between June 11 and June 14. The margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr. Editing by Mike Harrison)

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