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Survey: Germany's liberals on brink at 5 percent

A survey of German voters published just five days before they pick their next federal parliament shows Chancellor Angela Merkel's existing coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats still at risk.

Germany's Forsa research institute on Tuesday said Chancellor Merkel's junior pro-business allies, the liberal Free Democrat (FDP) party, was hovering at the 5-percent threshold that will decide on their parliamentary reentry or exclusion.

Germans pick their 598-seat federal parliament next Sunday, September 22.

Furthermore, Forsa found that a 53 percent majority of voters said that if electoral law was changed to allow them to directly pick their chancellor, they would prefer Merkel as German leader - irrespective of party allegiances.

Her main opposition Social Democrat challenger, Peer Steinbrück, was favored by 26 percent. A remaining 21 percent preferred neither.

Latest poll since Bavarian vote

Forsa's findings were based on interviews with 2502 voters up until Monday as voters digested the outright win scored in Bavaria by Merkel's allies, the regional conservative CSU party of state premier Horst Seehofer and the shock exit of the FDP from the Munich assembly. The FDP ended up below the threshold at only 3.3 percent in Bavaria.

Voters in Forsa's survey put Merkel's coalition of the past four years - comprising her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the CSU and FDP on 44 percent combined.

Forsa said Merkel's conservative alliance nationwide scored 39 percent, with the FDP hovering on the 5 percent threshold.

Likewise on 44 percent, according to Forsa, was a hypothetical opposition triumvirate of SPD, Greens and the leftist [ex-communist] party The Left .

Steinbrück favors Greens

Steinbrück has repeatedly rejected any inclusion of The Left in such a coalition, saying he favors only a coalition comprising his SPD and the ecologist Greens.

Forsa on Tuesday said the SPD lay unchanged on 25 percent, with the Greens on 9 percent, lower than the 10.7 percent they gleaned in 2009 during Germany's last federal election and far below sampling of Green support during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Forsa, whose survey was conducted for the commercial media group Stern-RTL, put The Left on 10 percent.

Two other entrants - the new right-wing euroskeptic party, Alternative for Germany, and the Intenet savvy Pirates - each got 3 percent, below the parliamentary threshold, said Forsa.

Merkel-Steinbrück repeat?

Steinbrück on Tuesday also ruled out a repeat of Merkel's 2005-2009 grand coalition that included the Social Democrats and in which Steinbrück was finance minister.

He told ZDF public television that he would not "hold the horse stirrups again for Mrs. Merkel."

Amid speculation that the FDP might fail to reenter the Berlin-based Bundestag parliament, Forsa said 64 percent of those interviewed preferred such a broad "grand" coalition of CDU and SPD.

No votes to donate, says Merkel

Merkel late on Monday said her conservatives had "no votes to give away" as the FDP appealed nationwide to non-FDP voters to give them their second "party list" vote next Sunday, so that the liberals could stay in the Bundestag parliament.

Steinbrück defends Trittin

Steinbrück, while campaigning at Emden in northern Germany, spoke out in support of the head of the Greenss, Jürgen Trittin, saying that he had reacted "appropriately" to a major embarrassment on Monday.

Trittin had apologized publicly for signing off a communal election manifesto in 1981 in which activists had called for a conditional decriminalization of sex between children and adults. The "paedophelia debate" has harmed the Greens' election campaign.

Numerous leading CDU conservatives on Monday called on Trittin to resign and quit his candidacy.

ipj/tj (dpa, Reuters, AFP)