Germany’s Merkel says party will fight as support flags

Polls show support for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union is at worrying levels

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed on Tuesday that her party will fight for a good result in Germany’s elections next month and will not be distracted by polls showing its support has fallen to worryingly low levels.

Ms Merkel’s Union bloc has been sagging in polls for weeks as Armin Laschet, the leader of her Christian Democratic Union party and the centre-right candidate to succeed her as chancellor, so far has failed to impress voters.

Mr Laschet is the governor of Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.

This week, a series of surveys showed the party was level with or even marginally behind the centre-left Social Democrats, whose experienced candidate — Olaf Scholz, the vice chancellor and finance minister in Ms Merkel’s coalition government — has gained in popularity as the September 26 election nears. Others have given the party only a skimpy lead.

That’s a shock for the Union, which until recent months was used to healthy poll leads, with the Social Democrats long mired in a poll slump.

Current surveys show the environmentalist Greens, who are making their first run for the chancellery with Annalena Baerbock, a few points behind the pair.

“We are fighting, or the party is fighting — I personally am not up for election,” Ms Merkel said when asked about the polls at a news conference in Berlin.

She pointed to a “good opening” to its official campaign on Saturday.

“We will work every day to get a good election result and not look every day at the polls,” Ms Merkel added.

“Ultimately, it is the ballots of voters in the ballot box that count.”

“The problems that arise — the pandemic and now this very, very bitter issue of Afghanistan — will be dealt with … by the government in such a way that is as good as possible for people in our country,” she said.

Mr Laschet himself would not be drawn on the polls and rejected suggestions that his campaign is suffering from a lack of support inside the Union bloc.

“The support is there, and you know I don’t evaluate polls when they’re good and when they’re bad,” he told reporters in a separate appearance in Berlin.

“We must exert ourselves, and everyone knows that everyone counts. That will give us motivation in the last five weeks until the election.”

Ms Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not seek a fifth four-year term as chancellor.

Updated: August 24th 2021, 8:04 PM
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