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Two-thirds of SPD supporters back German grand coalition: poll

FILE PHOTO: Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Christian Social Union (CSU) leader Horst Seehofer and Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz pose after a statement on coalition talks to form a new coalition government in Berlin, Germany, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Two thirds of supporters of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) back forming a coalition government with Angela Merkel’s conservatives, an opinion poll showed on Friday.

The poll conducted by Kantar Emnid for the Funke group of regional newspapers showed that 66 percent want a “grand coalition” and only 30 percent favor new elections, while 78 percent of supporters of the conservatives back the coalition.

In a postal ballot starting on Feb. 20, the SPD’s 464,000 members will be asked to approve a four-year government program that party leaders clinched last week.

The results of the vote will be announced on March 4. If the deal is rejected, Germany would most likely hold a new election.

The poll also showed that 49 percent of Germans want Merkel to serve another full four-year term as chancellor, while 44 percent want her to hand over to a successor before then.

Almost three-quarters of supporters of her conservatives want her to serve a full term, while 86 percent of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) want her to step down early.

Many within the SPD harbor misgivings about sharing power with Merkel, believing the party should rebuild in opposition after suffering its worst result in last September’s election since Germany became a federal republic in 1949.

Merkel is also facing discontent with the deal among conservatives who feel her concessions to the SPD went too far.

Early this week she rejected suggestions that rising criticism among conservatives of her decision to cede the finance ministry to her rivals was a sign that her authority was waning.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Andrew Heavens