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Support for German Social Democrats soars after Schulz nomination - poll

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for Germany’s centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) jumped by 8 points to 28 percent, the highest since the last federal election in 2013, following the nomination of Martin Schulz as SPD chancellor candidate, a poll showed on Thursday.

New Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz addresses a news conference at their party headquarters in Berlin, Germany, January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

The DeutschlandTrend survey, conducted by Infratest dimap for ARD public television, showed support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc falling by 3 points to 34 percent from last month.

In a theoretical direct vote, Schulz would beat Merkel with 50 percent support compared to 34 percent, the poll showed, with support for the former European Parliament president soaring 9 points from late January and for Merkel falling 7 points.

The SPD last week nominated Schulz to run against Merkel in a federal election in September and the surprise move has boosted support for the centre-left party, currently the junior partner in Merkel’s governing coalition.

The nomination followed a decision by former economy minister and party leader Sigmar Gabriel to stand aside for Schulz, a move that shows the SPD is serious about ending its role as coalition partner under Merkel after the Sept. 24 vote.

The SPD wants to form a coalition with smaller parties on the left but most analysts still think another right-left coalition is the most likely outcome of the next election.

The DeutschlandTrend poll - a survey of 1,506 voters conducted from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 - put support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at 12 percent, a drop of 3 percentage points from the previous poll.

The environmentalist Green party and the leftist Linke party both fell 1 percentage point to 8 percent each, while the business-friendly Free Democratic Party rose 1 percentage point to 6 percent, the poll showed.

Schulz has vowed to shake up German elections and unseat Merkel with a campaign aimed at overcoming “deep divisions” that he says have fuelled populism in Germany in recent years.

The Social Democrat has called for higher wage increases for workers, described U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies as “un-American” and warned against lifting sanctions imposed against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Paul Carrel