BERLIN (AFP) - Germany's fledgling anti-euro party poses an election threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition after clawing support amid fresh Greek aid fears, analysts say.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) is a small party calling for Europe's top economy to ditch the single currency and, some pollsters say, could even exceed forecasts and leap into parliament after the September 22 vote.
Even if it doesn't, in Germany's delicate see-saw coalition system, the AfD could tip the balance by wooing disgruntled centre-right voters away from Dr Merkel's conservatives in her bid for a third term or from her already troubled allies.
"The AfD, above all, is drawing voters from the middle-class camp," political scientist Jens Walther, of Duesseldorf University, told AFP, referring to Dr Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Free Democratic Party (FDP) junior partners.
Dr Merkel has ruled out a coalition with the AfD. "It's not even a question," she bluntly told Sunday's Bild newspaper, while her key party ally Volker Kauder dismissed the AfD as having "no real programme".
But the AfD poses a danger that Dr Merkel's party recognises, Dr Walther said, as the CDU seeks to keep its junior partner on board despite the FDP's shaky prospects to hover dangerously close to the all-important 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary seats.
"They're (the conservatives and FDP) warning voters against it, trying to create concern in order to mobilise their own people," Dr Walther said, highlighting Dr Merkel had until then studiously ignored the party.
The AfD, established early this year, advocates an "orderly dissolution" of the eurozone and argues that the return to the once-beloved deutschmark "must not be taboo".
Its core members at the start comprised middle-class voters, academics and business figures.
The spectre of a third international bailout for Greece unleashed by Germany's respected finance minister last month put wind in the party's sails amid voter unease over how much more Berlin will have to fork out in euro zone aid.
Prof Gero Neugebauer of Berlin's Free University agreed the AfD was cause for concern for Dr Merkel as it could gnaw into her majority with the FDP.
Even if most Germans approve of Dr Merkel's handling of the euro zone crisis, some believe she went too far to save the euro, he said.
"The problem is rather that there are perhaps some CDU supporters who say 'I'll vote AfD to give Mrs Merkel a warning shot'," he told AFP.
The AfD scored 3 per cent in a Forsa Institute poll on Wednesday - below the hurdle necessary for Bundestag entry - but also just three percentage points below the FDP.
Dr Merkel's current coalition retained a clear majority over the combined firepower of the opposition Social Democrats and their allies, the Greens.
But other recent surveys have not painted such a clear picture for the government's future, handing smaller parties kingmaker potential.
AfD leader Bernd Lucke seems open to cooperating with the conservatives, under strict conditions.
His party will "only enter coalition talks with parties ready to fundamentally turn away from the current euro rescue policy", he told Focus news weekly.
He claims his party will provide the big surprise on election night as "raw data" by some polling institutes do not reflect the AfD's real support, which, he claims, to be enough to send MPs into parliament.
Forsa chief Manfred Guellner has not excluded that but told Stern magazine on Wednesday it was hard to assess the party's chances, partly because some of its supporters are not forthcoming in surveys.
If the party does get into parliament, it is likely to make life hard for Dr Merkel's coalition "because the numbers are so close at the moment that it (the coalition) probably won't work any more, " Dr Walther added.