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Merkel party loses support after female hiring quota dispute: poll

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media during a visit at a retirement home in Melle, April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Martin Meissner/Po
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to the media during a visit at a retirement home in Melle, April 12, 2013. REUTERS/Martin Meissner/Po

BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives has fallen by 2 percentage points to 39 percent after a dispute over quotas requiring companies to hire more women executives, an opinion poll published on Sunday showed.

Rebel members of Merkel's centre-right coalition, including Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, threatened to break ranks and vote with opposition parties that wanted to introduce a female quota from 2018, convinced that voluntary pledges to appoint more women have proven inadequate.

Merkel averted the potentially embarrassing defeat in parliament when the rebels accepted a compromise plan obliging big firms to raise the proportion of women on supervisory boards to 30 percent in 2020.

Emnid said the incident was likely the reason for the conservatives becoming less popular with voters.

The weekly Emnid poll for German newspaper Bild am Sonntag showed the Free Democrats (FDP), the junior coalition partner in Merkel's centre-right government, has 5 percent support, unchanged from last week and enough for the liberal, pro-business party to enter parliament after the next election.

That would give the ruling government 44 percent support, close to the 47 to 48 percent usually needed for a parliamentary majority in a system where parties with less than 5 percent do not get any seats.

The poll showed the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) remained unchanged at 26 percent support, while the Greens held steady at 14 percent, giving those parties 40 percent combined - not enough to beat the ruling government.

The socialist Die Linke party was also unchanged at 8 percent. The maverick Pirates gained one point to 4 percent.

The poll of 2,410 people was conducted between April 11 and 17.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Paul Simao)

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