A dog from Spain named Lima is to get a say in whether Angela Merkel can form a new government in Germany.

The dog has been signed up as a member of the centre-Left Social Democratic Party (SPD), which is holding a ballot on whether to join a new coalition under Mrs Merkel.

Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper, Bild, admitted on Tuesday it had tricked the SPD into signing Lima up in order to test the party’s identity checking procedures.

The party failed to detect the ploy, and Lima was accepted as a member.  The dog was sent a postal ballot form to vote on the coalition deal as well as campaign leaflets from rival camps within the party.

The debacle is the latest in a series of humiliations for the SPD, and comes a day after an opinion poll found its support has fallen so low it is now in third place behind the nationalist Alternative for Germany party (AfD).

The findings mean the SPD’s place as one of the two main parties in Germany is under threat for the first time since the Second World War.

The SPD is currently holding a postal ballot of its 463,723 members on a coalition deal with Mrs Merkel.

But the party is in chaos, riven by infighting over the deal, and its former leader, Martin Schulz, was forced to resign after losing the confidence of members.

The disarray has seen support for the SPD plummet, and a poll for the Insa Institute this week found it had dropped to an all-time low of 15.5 per cent, behind the AfD, which moved into second place for the first time on 16 per cent.

Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) are still comfortably in first place on 32 per cent, but she needs the SPD’s support to form a new government.

It's a dog's life: Lima is one of the SPD's newest membersCredit:
BILD/Peter Müller

A Momentum-style campaign by opponents of the deal within the SPD, to sign up new members to vote No, managed to recruit some 24,000 people before a deadline earlier this month.

But that has now been undercut by the disclosure that one of them was a dog.

The Bild journalists gave the address of Lima’s owner as her place of residence and calculated her age as 21 by converting “dog years” to “human years”.

“Political parties in Germany have no access to official databases. In principle, we welcome new members on the assumption the information they provide us is correct,” a spokesman for the SPD told Bild.

“Intentionally supplying false information is fraud, and may be punishable by law.”

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