Merkel party loses support after female exec quota row

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservatives saw their support slip in a voter poll Sunday after a messy row over introducing quotas for woman executives, five months ahead of a general election.

The survey for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed Merkel's Christian Union bloc on 39 percent, down two points from last week.

The main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) were unchanged at 26 points despite a party congress last weekend aimed at reviving their flagging campaign.

The conservatives' junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, also held steady, at five percent -- the minimum required to claim seats in parliament.

Meanwhile the Greens, the SPD's favoured ally, remained on 14 percent and the far-left Linke on eight percent.

Only smaller fringe parties gained during the week, including the Pirate party, backers of Internet freedom, with four percent.

The poll was carried out by the Emnid independent polling institute between April 11 and 17 among 2,410 people. No margin of error was given.

Merkel's coalition on Thursday defeated an opposition bid to set a binding quota for women board members. But the vote exposed a damaging party rift and forced her to give ground.

The Bundestag lower house of parliament rejected the motion, which called for the gradual introduction of a 40 percent binding quota for women on supervisory and management boards of big companies from 2023.

Opposition deputies had forced the vote, which earlier in the week backed Merkel into a corner after some of her allies threatened to break ranks and help pass the motion.

During what was described by a senior party member as an "intensive discussion", leaders of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union were forced to accept a compromise to include in its manifesto from 2020 a 30 percent female quota on supervisory boards.

Germany will go to the polls on September 22 with Merkel aiming to win a third four-year term.