Angela Merkel may be extremely popular, but a third consecutive term in the Chancellery could very well depend on the performance of the Free Democrats (FDP), the junior coalition partner to her Christian Democrats (CDU). And now, for the first time in a long time, the business-friendly party has gotten a bit of good news. A new survey has found that, were the election held on Sunday, the FDP would receive 5 percent of the vote, the minimum needed to secure seats in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament.
It may not seem like much, but the FDP has been hovering at or below 5 percent for months -- and a clutch of negative headlines had recently led many to believe that support for the party would once again evaporate. Rainer Brüderle, the party's lead candidate for elections in September, was accused of sexism. And, then, one prominent FDP member was accused of making racist comments about party leader Philipp Rösler, originally from Vietnam. Combined all this with continuing fallout from a bitter leadership dispute in January, and the party has definitely not been helping itself look like a winner.
But the FDP is hoping that its strong showing in the January state election in Lower Saxony, where the party received 9.9 percent of the vote, is a sign of things to come. Granted, many of those votes were "loaned" from the CDU to ensure that the FDP made it over the 5 percent hurdle. But, given its recent run of wheel-spinning, the party isn't picky about the size of the straws it grasps at.
Tuesday's survey, conducted for by the pollster INSA for the tabloid Bild, is also good news for Merkel. Her conservatives polled at 40 percent, up one percentage point from last week -- giving her coalition with the FDP 45 percent of the potential vote and putting them slightly ahead of a potential coalition of the opposition Social Democrats (29 percent) and Greens (15 percent).