BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s opposition Greens hit record highs in two opinion polls on Thursday, topping one to confirm growing disillusionment with the fragile ruling coalition as they angle for a central role in the government of a northern state.
The Greens, buoyed amid growing concern across Europe about climate change, late on Wednesday proposed holding coalition talks in the city state of Bremen with the Social Democrats (SPD) and far-left Linke.
That served as a reminder to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives that they cannot rely on staying in office simply by continuing to come first in federal elections, and Thursday’s surveys suggested that outcome was no longer guaranteed.
An Infratest dimap poll put the Greens up 6 percentage points at a record 26%, one point ahead of the conservatives. A Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll for ZDF television gave the Greens the same score, with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc just retaining its lead.
The SPD, the conservatives’ coalition partners at national level, performed badly in both polls, falling to a record low of 12% in the former one.
The SPD is in disarray. Its leader Andrea Nahles resigned on Sunday following a dismal performance in the Bremen and European Parliament elections after growing calls from within the party for it to end the alliance.
The push by the Greens, fresh from coming second in European elections, for a leftist coalition in Bremen is significant because the party, wants a snap federal election if Merkel’s coalition collapses.
That scenario has grown more likely as the SPD’s fortunes have declined.
In the last national parliament, the SPD, Greens and Linke had more seats than Merkel’s bloc, though policy divisions - especially on foreign affairs - prevented them from forming a federal government.
While Bremen is a tiny state with a long left-wing history, a so-called Red-Red-Green coalition there would be the first of its kind in Germany’s West, demonstrating the Greens’ ability to tip coalitions to the left or right as they see fit.
“A Red-Red-Green alliance offers the possibility, with a stable majority, of taking courageous, new steps in the politics of the state of Bremen,” the Greens leadership in the state said.
The Forschungsgruppe Wahlen poll gave the Greens, SPD and Linke combined support of 43%. With some smaller parties short of the 5% threshold required to enter parliament, that would put the alliance on the cusp of a majority on the national level.
In Bremen, the Greens’ proposal offers the SPD a lifeline to hold on to power after the center-left party failed to win the most votes there for the first time in 73 years last month, narrowly losing to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
“Coalition-building in Bremen is interesting for the implications it could carry for the federal level, especially as the Grand Coalition could well fall apart this year,” said Mujtaba Rahman, managing director at consultancy Eurasia Group.
“The automatic assumption of many is that a Green-CDU coalition would be most likely, probably after elections. But Bremen shows that a Red-Red-Green combination might be possible.”
Red-Red-Green alliances already hold power in the states of Berlin and Thuringia, in Germany’s former Communist East. In Hesse and Baden-Wuerttemberg in the West, the Greens share power with Merkel’s conservatives.
The CDU also shed support in the European elections. Their leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has been edging the party to the right since she succeeded Merkel as chairwoman in December.
A Forsa survey last month showed most Germans believe Kramp-Karrenbauer is not ready to succeed Merkel as chancellor.
Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers, Thomas Escritt and Kerstin Doerr; Editing by John Stonestreet