July 13, 2011 11:22 pm

Merkel’s Christian Democrats slip in polls

Germany’s ruling centre-right coalition, headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel, has slipped 12 points behind the combined vote of its opposition rivals, the centre-left Social Democrats and environmentalist Green party, in spite of a decision to cut taxes before the next elections in 2013.

The weekly Forsa poll published in Stern magazine showed Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats are still the largest political force in Germany, but down two percentage points to 31 per cent. Her liberal Free Democrat partners are down one point to 4 per cent – below the 5 per cent threshold needed to win any seats in parliament.

The Social Democratic party was up one point to 24 per cent and the Greens steady at 23 per cent, for a joint score of 47 per cent – enough to give them an absolute majority.

The poll is a blow to the German chancellor, who was looking for a revival in support as she approaches the halfway stage in her four-year term in office. Ms Merkel’s coalition has been lagging in the polls for most of the time since it came to power in November, 2009, largely because of friction with the FDP. The liberals have since ditched their leader, Guido Westerwelle, foreign minister, but have yet to revive their vote, lagging at less than a third of their last election performance.

Manfred Güllner, head of Forsa, said the government’s planned tax cuts – agreed last week after constant campaigning by the FDP – were likely to prove an electoral flop. He said German voters wanted to see cuts in government spending rather than lower taxes.

Although Ms Merkel remains one of the most popular politicians in the country, Mr Güllner said she seemed to have lost her reputation as someone who understood the concerns of ordinary voters.

An alternative poll by Emnid on Sunday showed a narrower gap between the rival coalitions, with the centre-right on 38 per cent, against 48 per cent for the centre-left.

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