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German SPD's new leader Schulz level with Merkel in poll

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BERLIN (Reuters) - As many Germans would vote for new Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz as for conservative Angela Merkel in a direct vote for chancellor, a poll published late on Wednesday showed, eight months before federal elections in September.

The Infratest dimap poll for ARD television, conducted on Wednesday, put both at 41 percent, with support for Merkel down two points from September and for Schulz up five points.

The SPD nominated former European Parliament president Schulz on Tuesday to run against Merkel in the September election after Sigmar Gabriel said he would stand aside to boost the party’s chances. Schulz will officially be appointed leader on Sunday.

The poll showed that Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its CSU Bavarian sister party would win 35 percent of the vote if it were held on Sunday, down two percentage points from the last poll.

The SPD would win 23 percent of the vote, an increase of three percentage points that the pollsters said was likely due to the news about Schulz.

The pro-environment Green party would win an unchanged nine percent of the vote, with the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party capturing 14 percent of the vote, a drop of one percentage point from the previous poll.

The Left party would win eight percent of the vote, while the Free Democratic Party would win six percent, the poll showed.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Catherine Evans