Merkel's party 'in free fall', poll shows, as Greens gain

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives has slumped three percentage points in a week to its lowest in over a year, a poll released on Wednesday showed, with the ecologist Greens just four points behind them.

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Facing a federal election in September without Merkel, who is standing down after four terms, her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian CSU sister party - together dubbed the ‘Union’ - have dropped to 26%, the Forsa poll showed.

With popular frustration growing over the Merkel government’s management of the coronavirus crisis, the conservative alliance has seen its support fall nine points in a month to a level not seen since early March last year.

“Union in free fall,” ran a headline on Focus Online, an online magazine.

The CDU suffered historic defeats in two state elections earlier this month, dogged by frustration over the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and extended lockdown measures, as well as a scandal over the procurement of face masks.

Support for the Greens rose 1 percentage point to 22%, according to the RTL/ntv-Trendbarometer survey conducted by pollster Forsa, which canvassed 2,511 voters on March 16-22.

The left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD), currently in an awkward ‘grand coalition’ with the Union, were steady at 16%. The business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) rose two points to 10%. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and far-left Linke were unchanged on 10% and 8% respectively.

The poll would leave Merkel’s conservative Union without sufficient support to form a coalition government with the FDP, their preferred ruling partner.

The Union could team up with the Greens, or the Greens and the FDP. After the 2017 election, the FDP walked out of coalition talks on such a three-way tie-up.

The fractured electoral landscape could also open up the scenario of an alliance between the Greens, SPD, and FDP, dubbed a ‘traffic light’ coalition after the parties’ colours.

Writing by Paul Carrel, editing by Emma Thomasson and Gareth Jones