Merkel’s fate uncertain, half of Germans favor new polls
A new opinion poll shows that half of Germans are in favor of new elections as Chancellor Angela Merkel struggles to reach a compromise with other parties to form a coalition government.
Five weeks of coalition talks between the three parties trying to form the next German government effectively collapsed late Sunday.
A survey conducted by German Institute for New Social Answers (INSA) for Bild newspaper showed on Wednesday that 49.9 percent of Germans were in favor of holding new elections.
Merkel won a fourth term in office in elections in September but overall support for her party declined, forcing her to enter into negotiations with two other parties on a coalition government.
But the German chancellor, known for her negotiation skills, failed to broker an agreement between her conservative Christian Democratic Union CDU/CSU, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and environmentalist Green Party.
Merkel herself has suggested that she would rather face fresh polls than leading an unstable minority government.
Forty eight percent of the respondents in the Wednesday poll also said they believed center-left Social Democrats (SPD) were right not to participate in coalition talks with Merkel’s CDU/CSU at all.
Only 18 percent would favor such a coalition with the SPD, which lost ground in the September elections.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) Party spoiled Merkel’s victory in September by surging into the parliament for the first time in more than half a century. The results even caused friction within her own bloc, with her party’s Bavarian sister party threatening to set out on its own.
Four out of 10 people said in the survey that Merkel should run again as chancellor if new elections are called. But 24 percent said they would prefer another candidate for her party. The chancellor herself has said she sees no reason to resign from her post.
It is now up to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to decide about how to proceed. Though his position is largely ceremonial, he has a crucial role at times of governmental crises like this.
President Steinmeier said on Monday that he did not want new elections and was prepared to give the parties more time to negotiate. The parties do not face strict deadlines; but if no achievement is ultimately made, Steinmeier will be forced to call snap elections.
Merkel is said to have told her party allies privately that her fate is now in the president’s hands.
Reports said Steinmeier, a former SPD leader, could bring considerable pressure on the party to change its mind and join a coalition with Merkel’s party. But there were also reports that SPD would only be willing to take part in a coalition under a new chancellor.