German anti-euro party could derail Merkel coalition hopes
BERLIN (Reuters) - A new anti-euro party could enter Germany's national parliament after an election next week, pollsters said on Sunday, potentially upsetting Chancellor Angela Merkel's hopes of returning to power with her current coalition partner.
The Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), which calls for an "orderly dismantling" of the euro zone, gained one point to 4 percent in an Emnid poll published on Sunday, taking it close to the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.
If the AfD, which has quickly gained momentum after being founded in February, won seats in parliament, Merkel would struggle to get a centre-right majority with the liberal FDP, making a 'grand coalition' with the Social Democrats (SPD) the more likely scenario.
Emnid's was the third survey this month to show the AfD on 4 percent after earlier polls put it at around 2-3 percent, and survey conductors say actual support is likely higher as some Germans are embarrassed to admit they would vote for such a party. Others say protest parties often get a last-minute boost.
Leading pollsters said the AfD could muster enough support to enter the assembly thanks to its perceived links to the far-right and a protest vote rather than on the back of its Eurosceptic views which have not found much resonance in a country with a pro-European political consensus.
"The AfD didn't stand a chance simply as an anti-euro party," said Manfred Guellner, head of Forsa polling institute, in top-selling newspaper Bild.
"But now it's catering to a right-wing populist potential that has always been latent in Germany and that could help it over the 5 percent hurdle," he added.
Worryingly for Merkel, pollsters said it was by no means certain that the FDP, which is currently polling at around 5 percent, would get enough votes to enter parliament.
While Merkel remains popular in Germany and recent polls have shown her coalition ahead of the main opposition SPD and Greens, the AfD could upset coalition arithmetic if it gets in.
Merkel reiterated at the weekend that she would not enter a coalition with the AfD after the election, telling a regional newspaper: "This question does not arise."
Ursula von der Leyen, deputy chairman of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said in Welt am Sonntag: "Whoever wants to divide Europe cannot be partner of the pro-European CDU."
The AfD also ruled out cooperating with Merkel if it got into the Bundestag lower house of parliament - a scenario party founder Bernd Lucke sees as likely given his estimate that the party could achieve close to double-digit support in the vote.
"We won't vote for a chancellor we don't trust and we certainly don't trust Ms Merkel at the moment," Lucke told Die Welt, adding that the AfD, run largely by academics and journalists, would only work with a party that turned its back on the Germany's euro zone policies.
"If the other parties continue to want to save the euro, we will be a very audible opposition," Lucke said.
Bild described the AfD's rapid rise as "Merkel's payback for a fluffy election campaign" and said she was trying to get rid of the party by ignoring it.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Mike Collett-White)