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Merkel looks headed for reelection, but with whom?

With five weeks to go before Germans go to the polls in a national election, Chancellor Angela Merkel appears on track to win another term. The only question that seems to remain, is who her coalition partners will be.

The results of the latest opinion poll released by ZDF German public television on Friday give the current coalition of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their junior partners, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) 46 percent support. This is unchanged from the previous poll.

This gives them a clear lead over the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and their preferred coalition partners, the Greens, who together had 38 percent support.

This would appear to make the outcome of the September 22 national election a done deal, but broken down by individual party, the FDP remains at just five percent support, the exact figure needed to gain representation in the German parliament. Should support slip even slightly, Chancellor Merkel could find herself without her liberal allies in the Bundestag.

This would force her to look for another partner, possibly the Social Democrats, whose Peer Steinbrück is seeking to replace her as chancellor. There have been so-called "grand coalitions" between the CDU and SPD in the past, including one led by Merkel and where Steinbrück served as finance minister after the 2005 election.

However, the Social Democrats, on 25 percent support in Friday's poll, would clearly be the junior partners to Merkel's Christian Democrats (which includes the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union) which had 41 percent.

Small hope for Steinbrück

The Left party look set to return to the Bundestag with eight percent support, while the Pirates had just three, well below the five-percent parliamentary hurdle.

The poll, conducted for ZDF by the Mannheim-based company Forschungsgruppe Wahlen also indicated that a majority of eligible German voters continue to prefer Chancellor Merkel to her Social Democrat challenger.

If they were able to vote directly for the chancellor (which is not the case in Germany's system), 63 percent of those asked said they would choose Merkel, a commanding lead over Steinbrück on 29 percent.

There was one figure that Steinbrück could take encouragement from: According to the ZDF poll, 72 percent of those asked said they could change their minds before September 22.

NSA outrage fails to translate into votes

Figures from a similar opinion poll released by ARD public television just hours earlier also indicated that opposition efforts to attack the government over how it has responded to the scandal involving snooping by the US National Security Agency have failed to move voters.

Asked about which issues they would consider when deciding for whom to cast their ballot on September 22, only 17 percent said the NSA affair would be "very important." This is well below issues such as fair wages and working conditions (57 percent), financial security in old age (57 percent) and maintaining ones personal living standard (47 percent).

pfd/mz (dpa, AFP)