Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has sunk to a new low in opinion polls, according to DeutschlandTrend Extra, as it wrangles over whether to join a new coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc.
Days before the party's nearly 464,000 members begin to vote on whether to accept the coalition deal, an Infratest Dimap poll for state broadcaster ARD found that only 16 per cent of voters would opt for the Social Democrats if an election were held now.
The figures published on Friday represented a fall of two percentage points since the beginning of February.
The party's numbers have been in free fall since the 20.5 percent it garnered in September's inconclusive national election, its worst result since 1949; however its current support levels are worse since even the inter-war period.
The center-left party is now just ahead of the nationalist, anti-mass immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which polled 15 per cent, a rise of one point. In the September elections, the AfD managed to secure 94 seats in the Bundestag, an astonishing achievement not only due to the fact that it is a nationalist party, but also because it is a very young party with significant problems of internal power struggles, as showcased by the popular Frauke Petry's decision to not take a seat in the Bundestag.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and her Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies had an unchanged 33 per cent in the poll, The Left (Die Linke) party was also unchanged on 11 per cent, the business-liberal Free Democrats (FDP) were down one point on 9 percent, while the leftist Greens gained two points to 13 per cent.
Despite eight out of 10 voters supporting Martin Schulz's bid to lead the SPD, observers have attributed the party's grim situation to a leadership crisis.
The party's parliamentary group leader, Andrea Nahles, who is a favourite amongst the upper echelons of the SPD, is actually drawing mixed reactions from voters, with 47 percent saying they do not believe she could save it from the brink of catastrophe, while 33 percent believe she can.
The German public has also grown tired of the never-ending ‘grand coalition' talks, and polls show that a mere 42 percent are even in favor of such a coalition, a drop of four points since the last poll conducted two weeks ago.
The public has also seemingly lost some of its patience with Merkel herself. As her popularity continues to wane, with 50 percent of respondents saying that it would be either "very good" or "good" if she was chancellor again. The figure stood at 61 percent last October.