BERLIN (Reuters) - Support for Germany's maverick Pirate Party has rocketed since its strong showing in a regional election, a poll showed on Tuesday, potentially raising the chances of a "grand coalition" of the two major parties taking power next year.
The Pirates, who champion Internet freedom, would win 12 percent today, the Forsa poll showed, their best result since the founding of the party in 2006 and up from the 7.4 percent they won in last month's election in the tiny state of Saarland.
That puts them only just behind Germany's third most popular party, the Greens, who were down one percentage point from the previous week at 13 percent, the poll showed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), was on 3 percent, the Forsa poll showed, up slightly from the last poll but still below the 5 percent threshold for entering the Bundestag lower house.
The FDP crashed out of the Saarland assembly in the March election there with just 1.2 percent.
The success of the Pirates has wider national implications.
By eating into support for other smaller parties, they may leave a "grand coalition" of the two major parties - Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and the opposition centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) - as the only option for Germany after a 2013 national election.
Political analysts say the Pirate Party is building the momentum to win seats in state assemblies in Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) in elections scheduled for May.
Commenting on the jump in support for the Pirates, Forsa head Manfred Guellner told stern magazine, which published the poll, that they were taking votes from all the other parties.
"They are not confined to a narrow clientele, they are effectively a national party in miniature," he said.
The Pirates are an offshoot of a party that emerged in Sweden six years ago to campaign for reform of copyright, free Internet downloads and more protection of personal data.
They made a splash in Germany's political scene last year by seizing 8.9 percent of votes for Berlin's city assembly, winning support especially among younger voters disillusioned with the other parties.
Merkel's CDU remains Germany's strongest party by a wide margin with 35 percent support and the main opposition SPD has 25 percent, the Forsa poll showed. Both were down one percentage point from last week.
Forsa conducted its survey on March 26-30 among 2,503 people.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Alistair Lyon)