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Martin Schulz, top candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) for the upcoming federal election, gives a speech during an election rally in Hamburg, Germany, August 31, 2017. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen


BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) on Thursday insisted they were still in with a chance of ousting Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Sept. 24 election after media reports said a senior party member seemed to have given up hope.

The SPD, which surged in the polls early this year after nominating former European Parliament President Martin Schulz as its election candidate, was on 23 percent in the latest opinion poll - far behind Merkel's conservatives on 37 percent.

Some German media reported that foreign minister and former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel no longer believed his party could win the election after he told German magazine Der Spiegel on Wednesday: "A grand coalition doesn't make sense because that would mean the SPD could not come up with the chancellor."

The SPD is currently the junior partner in a 'grand coalition' - generally a last resort alliance - with Merkel's conservatives.

Gabriel contradicted those media that suggested he thought there was no prospect of an SPD victory, saying in a statement released on Thursday: "Whoever says anything like that is talking nonsense."

He said the race between Merkel and her SPD challenger remained "completely open" and pointed to a survey by pollster Allensbach last week that showed almost 50 percent of voters had yet to decide who they would choose.

Schulz told Germany's RND network of newspapers: "Sigmar Gabriel said he doesn't want to continue the grand coalition. I don't want that either. Where's the drama?"

Schulz said his aim was still to become chancellor of Germany with the SPD as the strongest party, adding that he would use a television debate between him and Merkel on Sunday to highlight the differences between their parties.

(Reporting by Holger Hansen; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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