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German poll gives Merkel government clear majority

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The coalition government of Germany's Angela Merkel scored its best poll results in more than three years, less than six months before elections, in a survey published on Wednesday.

If a vote were held now, her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its junior partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), would win a clear governing majority, said the Forsa institute poll.

The gap has widened mainly because of the weakness of the centre-left Social Democratic Union (SPD), whose chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck has had a poor campaign start, hobbled by a series of gaffes and missteps.

Asked which candidate they preferred as chancellor, 57 percent of respondents opted for Merkel against just 19 percent for Steinbrueck.

Under Merkel, the champion of tough reforms and austerity during the eurozone's debt woes, "people have the feeling that, in times of crisis, they are in safe hands with her," said Forsa institute chief Manfred Guellner.

"If the SPD had a charismatic chancellor candidate, then Merkel would also be viewed in a more critical light," he told the Stern news weekly, which commissioned the weekly poll along with RTL television.

Of the respondents, 47 percent said they would vote for one of the ruling parties, the CDU or FDP.

It was the first Forsa poll since elections in late 2009 that indicated a clear ruling majority for Merkel's government over the combined support for the three main opposition parties.

The CDU scored 41 percent support in the poll and the FDP six percent, narrowly passing the five percent hurdle to stay in parliament. Both parties were up one point from the previous survey.

The SPD lost one point to 23 percent, nearing its all-time low, and the Green party was also down one point to 14 percent. The Left, the communist successor party, was up one point at nine percent.

This gave the major opposition parties a combined 46 percent support.

The Pirate Party, which campaigns for Internet freedom and civil rights but has been torn by internal squabbles, stayed at three percent, placing it in the political death zone beyond the next elections.

Germany goes to the polls on September 22, when Merkel, one of Germany's most popular politicians, will seek a third term as chancellor, running against Steinbrueck, her former finance minister in a grand coalition government.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130410/german-poll-gives-merkel-government-clear-majority