Merkel heading for fourth term in splintered German vote: poll

By Michael Nienaber and Paul Carrel

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is on track to win a fourth term in Sunday’s national election despite a dip in support that narrows her conservatives’ lead over their Social Democrat (SPD) rivals, a poll showed on Tuesday.

The weekly survey, conducted by Forsa for RTL television and Stern magazine, showed support for Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc – known as the ‘Union’ – down one percentage point at 36 percent, its lowest since April, while the SPD was unchanged on 23 percent.

SPD leader Martin Schulz has been campaigning to fight inequality, but Merkel’s message – that the economy needs to be rendered fit for the future by investing in digital technologies – appears to resonate more at a time of strong growth.

In fresh positive news from the economy, the Mannheim-based ZEW research institute said the mood among German investors improved more than expected in September as worries about the stronger euro faded.

“The German federal elections do not seem to have been a source of uncertainty,” ZEW President Professor Achim Wambach said in a statement.

The ZEW survey suggested markets expect Europe’s biggest economy to continue its solid performance in the coming months, buoyed by record-high employment, rising real wages and ultra-low borrowing costs that are supporting a consumer-led upswing.

Tuesday’s poll showed that in a fictional, direct vote between Merkel and Schulz, 48 percent would support her and 22 percent would back him, with 30 percent preferring neither.

With Merkel’s conservatives commanding a solid poll lead, attention in Germany is turning to who she will govern with after the election, rather than whether she will stay in power.

COALITION OPTIONS

The Forsa poll put support for the far-left party Die Linke at 10 percent, which would make it the third-strongest political force in the next Bundestag lower house of parliament.

The business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) both came in at 9 percent. The environmentalist Greens stood at 8 percent.

This means that only another grand coalition of Merkel’s conservatives with the SPD or a nationwide untested three-way “Jamaica” alliance of the conservatives, FDP and Greens would have a stable majority, the pollster said.

“The Union and SPD are each losing around every seventh voter from 2013,” added Hermann Binkert, chief of another polling group, INSA.

Other polls have suggested that the AfD – which says it will…

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