Barely a week before German general election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed confidence about forming a new coalition government with a liberal party, notwithstanding gloomy forecasts for her and a surge in popularity of her main rival, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Barely a week before German general election, Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed confidence about forming a new coalition government with a liberal party, notwithstanding gloomy forecasts for her and a surge in popularity of her main rival, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

At the last press conference of her four-year term here, Ms. Merkel gave details of achievements of her Christian Democratic Party’s (CDU) “grand coalition” with the social democrats, but made it clear that she had no appetite for a second term with Mr. Steinmeier’s SDP.

She said she was quite convinced that several successful policy initiatives put in place by the outgoing government could be pursued more vigorously and effectively by a new government under her leadership with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) as a junior partner.

“A grand coalition is an exception,” she said. “A coalition with the FDP is a stable variant.”

The latest opinion polls showed that Mr. Steinmeier, who is also the Deputy Chancellor, was able to reduce his gap in public popularity with Ms. Merkel after their televised election debate last Sunday ahead of the September 27 elections.

Mr. Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) gained three points to finish at 26 per cent compared to Ms. Merkel’s 35 per cent lead, which remained unchanged. Pollsters said the TV audience found Mr. Steinmeier more likeable and convincing in arguments than Ms. Merkel. The polls also showed that if the elections are held next Sunday as scheduled, the CDU will get 35 per cent votes, the same level as during the last survey a week ago, while the SDP will get three points more to reach 26 per cent. The poll ratings of the FDP also remained unchanged at 14 per cent.

Election analysts said on the basis of the latest forecasts, the CDU and the FDP might end up in the elections barely short of the 50 per cent majority needed to form a new government.

But they may be able to cross the hurdle by securing sufficient “overhang mandate”, constituency seats which a party obtains over and above the seats which it is entitled to on the basis of the second votes cast for it under Germany’s voting system of proportional representation.

Ms. Merkel, however, said she was “quite encouraged” by the latest opinion polls, which are “much better than the forecasts a week before the last elections four years ago” and she felt “highly motivated to fight for every vote“.

She said she was not counting on the “overhang mandate” and her goal was to secure enough votes for the CDU to form a stable coalition government with the FDP.

The Chancellor said if she succeeds in forming a new coalition government with the FDP after the election, her main priority would be to implement with great vigour her outgoing government’s economic recovery programme, which has been showing “good results”, and to take the country out of the worst recession in its history.

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