Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party clawed back some support following his televised debate last weekend with opposition leader Angela Merkel, a poll showed Wednesday as they clashed in their last parliamentary encounter before the Sept. 18 election.
The poll by the Forsa institute showed Merkel's preferred alliance of her Christian Democrats with the pro-business Free Democrats just short of a majority after Schroeder, a skilled debater, performed strongly in Sunday's debate _ deepening uncertainty over which coalition will emerge.
It showed support for Schroeder's Social Democrats rose by three percentage points from last week to 34 percent, while the Christian Democrats were down a point at 42 percent. The Free Democrats were down to 6 percent _ underlining the possibility that Merkel could be forced into a "grand coalition" with Schroeder's party.
The Forsa poll of 1,030 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, gave Schroeder's coalition partner, the Greens, 7 percent. It said support for the Left Party, an alliance of ex-communists and former Social Democrats alienated by Schroeder's efforts to reform the welfare state, was down to 8 percent.
Merkel has sought this week to convince voters that only a center-right government will be able to push forward reform of Germany's labor market and revitalize the economy. She also has talked up the possibility _ rejected by all parties concerned _ of a three-way alliance between the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party.
The latest poll figures gave the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party combined support of 49 percent. All have rejected talk of an alliance, and any attempt to form such a coalition would have to surmount major policy and personality clashes.
Schroeder's speech Wednesday centered on an impassioned defence of his limited welfare-state trims and labor-market reforms, which have infuriated left-wingers. He attacked as socially unjust Merkel's plans for deeper reforms, reported Washingtonpost.com with reference to АР.