Only half of Germans see Scholz's coalition surviving as policy differences mount

By Riham Alkousaa and Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) -Only half of Germans believe the ruling government coalition will hold until the end of its legislative period, a survey showed on Thursday, as arguments among the three parties over climate policy and budget intensify and voter support withers.

A dispute over transforming Germany's heating system escalated within the ruling coalition of the Social Democrats, environmental Greens and pro-business FDP party this week.

The FDP on Tuesday blocked introducing to the parliament a bill brought by the Greens-led economy ministry that would ban most new oil and gas heating systems from 2024, calling for substantial changes to the draft law.

The Greens accused the FDP of a "blockade policy", warning of a possible government crisis.

With politicians from both parties exchanging blows through the media, some 40% of Germans believe the three-way coalition in Europe's biggest economy will break up before the end of its legislative period in 2025, a survey by Forsa pollster published by ntv/RTL broadcasters showed on Thursday.

Around 54% of Germans are in favour of new elections if the coalition breaks down, it added.

"The first few months of this government were strongly determined by the pandemic and then the Ukraine war which masked some domestic tensions," said Stefan Marschall, political scientist at the University of Duesseldorf.

"But now since the beginning of the year the focus is more on how we can concretely bring about the energy trasition, causing some coflicts to suddenly emerge."

Still, he, like other analysts, expected the coalition to pull itself together given that "parties that pull away from a coalition and therefore from governing responsibility are usually punished".

Moreover the parties are currently polling significantly less than they performed in the 2021 federal election - on just 39% together compared to 52% back then, according to Forsa.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Thursday urged the junior coalition partners to settle the dispute in the next few weeks, but around 81% of Germans believe Scholz should take a stronger leadership position, the survey showed.

Another point of contention is a Greens-planned subsidy for industrial electricity prices which could cost 25 to 30 billion euros until 2030, which the FDP-led finance ministry is pushing against, citing budget constraints.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Thursday said the three parties were too focused on their own milieus, sometimes neglecting the common cause for Germany, adding that a vicious circle of politicians talking badly about each other had to stop.

(Reporting by Riham AlkousaaAdditional reporting by Christian Kraemer; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio)