Eurosceptics poised for German breakthrough, hurting Merkel

Eurosceptics poised for German breakthrough, hurting Merkel
A tourist takes a picture of the wax figure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Berlin, September 19, 2013.

BERLIN - A new Eurosceptical party is on the brink of entering the German parliament for the first time, an opinion poll showed, casting doubt on Chancellor Angela Merkel's bid to maintain her centre-right coalition and complicating her euro zone policy.

Merkel still looks set to secure a third term in Sunday's general election. But the Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has risen on a tide of public hostility to bailouts of indebted southern euro zone countries, could further fragment the lower house, forcing her into a right-left "grand coalition".

A breakthrough for the party, which advocates forcing weaker members out of the single currency area, would send shock waves around Europe and could spook financial markets, even though its voice in parliament would be small.

An INSA poll on Thursday gave Merkel's conservatives 38 per cent and their liberal Free Democrat (FDP) allies 6 per cent, putting the centre-right one point behind the three left-of-centre opposition parties, with a combined 45 per cent.

The survey was the first to show the AfD, created just seven months ago, clearing the 5 per cent hurdle to win seats in the Bundestag lower house. Its best score in other polls has been 4 per cent, but pollsters say it may have higher unavowed support.

If the AfD becomes the first new party to enter the Bundestag since 1990, Merkel would probably have to negotiate a coalition with the pro-European opposition Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she governed in 2005-2009.

The INSA poll was also the first to be taken after Bavarian conservatives won a regional election last Sunday - but it showed no bounce for Merkel in the national race.

The ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) had tried to ignore the AfD, but abruptly changed tack this week and deployed respected Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to attack the skeptics, who want Greece and other bailout recipients out of the euro.

The 71-year-old minister, a veteran supporter of European integration, said the AfD's anti-euro argument "has no credibility and is extremely dangerous for our prosperity".

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