Polls show Schroeder's campaign regaining lost ground

Germany's opposition Christian Democrats may fail to win a majority with their preferred coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, in the Sept. 18 election, raising the prospects for an alliance with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party, a weekly poll found.

Support for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, fell 2 percentage points to 41 percent while the FDP stayed at 7 percent, giving them 48 percent of the vote, not enough to form a government, the survey of 1,299 people by FG Wahlen showed. It's the third poll this week to show the same outcome.

"Things are increasingly pointing toward a grand coalition of the CDU/CSU and SPD," said Gerd Langguth, a politics lecturer at the University of Bonn who's written a biography of CDU leader Angela Merkel, in a telephone interview. "This seems like a trend that may firm up before voting day," reports Bloomberg.

According to Reuters, Schroeder's SPD were on 34 percent, his coalition partners, the Greens were on 7 percent, while the new Left Party were on 8 percent.

Support for Schroeder has grown since a television debate on Sunday in which the Chancellor was judged to have performed better than Merkel.

It also reflects growing scepticism about the radical tax reform proposals of Merkel's shadow Finance Minister Paul Kirchhof, who wants to introduce a uniform flat tax on all forms of income and cut an array of subsidies and tax breaks.

SPD party leaders have ruled out a coalition with the Left Party, a recently formed alliance of former communists and other leftists spearheaded by former SPD leader Oskar Lafontaine, a foe of Schroeder's.

That means the only viable government could be a grand coalition under Merkel.

While economists and many media commentators say a grand coalition between two parties with widely opposing ideas would be a recipe for gridlock and instability, the survey showed that 35 percent of those surveyed thought it the best outcome.

Schroeder's personal popularity remains well ahead of his rivals, with 53 percent of those surveyed saying they would prefer him as Chancellor against 40 percent for Merkel, although 54 percent are dissatisfied with the current government.

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