Merkel victory in doubt as gaffes erode support

A survey conducted by Germany's Infratest Dimap organisation showed that Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats and their prospective liberal Free Democrat coalition partners would win only 48 per cent of the vote in the September election. It is the the first poll to show Mrs Merkel's coalition falling short of a majority since she announced her decision to run for Chancellor.

Yesterday's poll showed the conservatives and liberals were running neck and neck with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's ruling Social Democrats and Greens and the country's recently formed radical left-wing "Left Party", which were also predicted to win a combined total of 48 per cent.

The survey's finding ended nearly two months in which Germany's conservative CDU had maintained a seemingly unassailable lead over its competitors and appeared on track to win the election. The bad news was compounded at the weekend by other polls which showed that more than 50 per cent of Germans would not welcome a change of government after the elections and that in a straight choice for the job of Chancellor, irrespective of party, Mr Schröder remained the clear favourite by 8 per cent.

Despite an extensive image overhaul, Mrs Merkel has lost ground to Mr Schröder because of weak television interviews, a confusing election programme and embarrassing slip-ups over terminology.

Last week, Mrs Merkel was criticised in the media for confusing net and gross income figures during a campaign speech. She was also made to appear no match for Mr Schröder after she refused to take part in more than one American-style television debate with the Chancellor. By contrast, Mr Schröder has appeared frequently on prime-time television to answer questions from political and business critics, the jobless and other aggrieved members of the public. He has appeared convincing despite his government's abysmal record on tackling unemployment.

His coalition still has little chance of being re-elected in September. Prospects for both parties, in particular the SPD, have suffered dramatically since the emergence of the Left Party headed by "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, the renegade former SPD leader and ex-German finance minister.

Opinion polls suggest the Left Party stands to win between 11 and 12 per cent nationwide and can count on the support of 33 per cent of voters in Germany's unemployment-plagued east. Although a handful of SPD members have called for an alliance with the Left Party after the election, Mr Schröder and his Green coalition partners have categorically rejected the idea.

The realisation, that the SPD's only realistic chance of remaining in office after the election may lie in a joint administration with the conservatives, prompted calls by leading members of Mr Schröder's government yesterday for a grand coalition government with the CDU. Predictably, these suggestions were angrily dismissed yesterday by Germany's smaller parties, which would stand to lose most from a grand coalition. Mr Schröder and Mrs Merkel also rejected debate on the issue as premature. However, some observers said that if the Left Party gained seats in parliament after the election a grand coalition would be unavoidable.

"We should not have high hopes of a grand coalition," said Arnulf Baring, a historian. "The SPD and CDU would be at loggerheads and this would stand in the way of attempts to consolidate policy," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project