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Germany's smaller parties seek late election surge

Germany's smaller established parties are trying to rejuvenate their campaigns for next Sunday's election, after a regional win for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives. Her existing federal coalition is in doubt.

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German parties read Bavarian tea leaves

Germany's long-established pro-business liberal Free Democrats (FDP) and opposition Greens tried to enliven their federal election campaigns on Monday as Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Bavarian sister party savored a weekend win.

That regional state election on Sunday left Merkel's ally Horst Seehofer and his Christian Social Union (CSU) on 47.7 percent in the Munich assembly but without its previous regional partner, the FDP, which exited on 3.3 percent - under a standard 5 percent threshold for representation.

Merkel's outgoing center-right federal coalition government - led by her Christian Democrats and Seehofer's CSU - includes five FDP cabinet ministers, reflecting the liberals' 14.6 percent vote share at Germany's last election in 2009.

Scenario worries FDP

To fend off a similar exit scenario during Germany's federal election next Sunday, FDP chairman Philipp Rösler (pictured right above) said on Monday his liberals would ask non-FDP voters to contribute their so-called second "list-votes" so his party could be re-elected to the Bundestag.

The FDP plans to distribute four-million postcards to households thought to be sympathetic to its agenda. Rösler, speaking alongside the FDP's top federal candidate Rainer Brüderle, said the second-vote campaign would run "up to the last second."

Pre-election surveys currently show the FDP hovering around the threshold level for the federal elections.

In Germany, voters exercise two ballots for the 598-seat federal parliament: one to fill the 299 district seats and one to fill the remaining 299 seats from among nationally active parties. So-called "overhang" seats can add to that total.

CDU rejects 'pity-for-FDP' vote

The general secretary of Merkel's CDU, Hermann Gröhe, rejected the FDP second-vote campaign on Monday, telling N-TV television that "every party is campaigning for itself."

The conservatives' Bundestag parliamentary group leader Volker Kauder also told German ZDF public television that Merkel's CDU and her CSU allies needed "both votes" next Sunday.

Kauder added that he believed the FDP would still clear the 5 percent statutory hurdle and would re-enter the federal parliament.

Greens' candidate expresses regret

The opposition, environmentalist Greens, who dipped to 8.6 percent in Bavaria on Sunday, sought to contain an embarrassment on Monday.

One of its two leading candidates; Jürgen Trittin, said he regretted failing to block a Greens-affiliated political pamphlet during a 1981 communal election in the city of Göttingen that had contained activists' calls to decriminalize some forms of pedophilia.

The Greens' Bundestag parliamentary group leader Renate Künast said her party needed to spend the final days ahead of the Bundestag election "better explaining that we want to create truly fair [societal] rules for the future."

'Uncomfortable' for Merkel

Andrea Nahles, the general secretary of the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD), told Phoenix parliamentary television on Monday that the conservative CSU win in Bavaria was a "very uncomfortable result" for Merkel.

Nahles said Seehofer had in effect campaigned "against" Merkel during the Bavarian election run-up. Nahles added that she was satisfied with the SPD's 20.6 percent showing in Bavaria – a two-percent gain.

Nationwide surveys put Merkel's conservative CDU-CSU bloc ten percent ahead of an potential SPD-Greens alliance sought by the Social Democrats' leading candidate Peer Steinbrück.

Grand coalition?

If the FDP fails to re-enter the Bundestag next Sunday, many Germans speculate that Merkel could turn to Steinbrück's SPD, who helped Merkel out in a grand coalition between 2005 and 2009.

SPD General Secretary Andrea Nahles said the SPD was open to only one coalition - with the Greens.

The leader of the leftist [ex-communist] party The Left, Bernd Riexinger on Monday told N-TV that the failure of both the FDP and his party to clear the 5 percent hurdle in Bavaria was not a poor omen for his party nationwide. "Smaller parties sometimes need a lengthier run-up," said Riexinger.

Riexinger said The Left was campaigning for a "good result" and not for an alternative "red-red-green" coalition comprising the SPD, his party and the Greens.

ipj/rc (dpa, Reuters, AFP; AP)

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