By Holger Hansen
BERLIN (Reuters) – Support for Germany’s governing Christian Democrats fell further in an opinion poll published on Friday, as a weak performance on the campaign trail by party leader Armin Laschet increasingly weighs on his chances of becoming chancellor.
The poll, by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, showed support for the CDU slipping to 26% – down two points on the previous poll and four from a month ago – while the Social Democrats (SPD), led by popular Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, gained three points to draw level on 19% with the opposition Greens.
Germany goes to the polls on Sept. 26, when Angela Merkel steps down as chancellor after 16 years in office and four straight national election victories.
Her Christian Democrats, who got just under 33% of the vote in the last election in 2017, currently govern in coalition with the SPD.
But Laschet’s chances of succeeding her at the head of a stable, two-party coalition appear slim, with his personal popularity rating also sinking while Scholz’s soars.
“Laschet has manoeuvred himself into this situation,” Matthias Jung of Forschungsgruppe Wahlen said in an interview. “He has made an awful lot of public appearances that have left a negative impression.”
He was forced to apologise after being caught on camera laughing during a visit to a town hit by devastating floods. He has also been heckled by members of the public, scratched events at short notice and appeared evasive in some interviews.
With the pace of campaigning picking up, Merkel will join Laschet on stage at a major event in Berlin on Aug. 21, when CDU strategists hope some of her popularity will rub off on him.
Supporters also say Laschet, 60, is a fighter, having come from behind to win election as governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, and should not be underestimated.
SCHOLZ RIDING HIGH
But in the fortnightly poll, for ZDF public television, Laschet was preferred by just 21% to be Germany’s next chancellor, a decline of eight points, while Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock fell four points to 16% and Scholz soared 10 points to 44%.
Scholz has won plaudits for his calm crisis management during both the coronavirus pandemic and the floods that struck western Germany last month, killing more than 180 people.
Although Laschet’s CDU is still the front-runner, the recovery in SPD support opens a path to power for Scholz at the head of a so-called traffic-light coalition of the SPD, Greens and liberal Free Democrats.
Support for the FDP edged up by one point to 11%, level with the far-right Alternative for Germany, whose support was steady.
The telephone poll was conducted between Aug. 10 and 12 with a representative sample of 1,252 respondents.
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