Slip threatens coalition plans

DUISBURG - A slow, but steady, tightening of the poll numbers in Germany is threatening Angela Merkel's hopes of forming a new centre-right coalition, and could, if it accelerates, even complicate her ambition to serve a second term as Chancellor.

Opinion polls taken over the past week have shown Merkel's CDU-CSU alliance losing ground to its coalition partner and Germany's second largest party, the Social Democrats, led by Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The decline is not dramatic, but it is enough to mean that no possibility should be ruled out.

With only four days of campaigning left, it seems that some German voters at least may be getting cold feet about the prospect of abandoning what has been widely regarded as a successful combination of the grand coalition.

Results in local elections at the weekend confirmed trends in elections over the past month, where the Social Democrats and the hard-left party, the Left, have done better than projected.

While local elections may be fought on different issues from national ballots, it is not impossible that the strength of the left and centre-left vote is being underestimated.

A poll from Demoskopie Allensbach showed the CDU-CSU at 35 per cent (1 point down on a week before), the SPD gaining 1.5 points, to 24 per cent, with the FDP a point up at 13.5 per cent. The Left lost 0.5 per cent to stand at 11.5.

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