Merkel's conservatives popularity falls to 14-month low in German succession race

Angela Merkel is set to bow out after 16 years as chancellor. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives slipped to a 14-month low in a poll published Sunday (May 2), further behind a Green party that's increasingly poised for a bid to lead Germany's next government.

With Merkel's succession at stake, support for her Christian Democratic Union and the Bavaria-based CSU party declined to 24 per cent from 27 per cent in a weekly poll by the Kantar polling group for Bild am Sonntag newspaper, a level last reached in early March 2020. The Greens declined 1 percentage point to 27 per cent, still close to their biggest national support in about two years.

Polls suggest the CDU-CSU alliance's battle over which candidate to run in Germany's election in September has hurt its standing with voters. Armin Laschet, a centrist in Merkel's mold who won the nod in April, is the least popular among the three main parties' candidates for chancellor, according to the Kantar poll.

The decision by Merkel to not seek a fifth term in September, her failure to engineer an organised transition, and the decline of her Social Democratic coalition partner have opened the door to what could be Germany's first Green-led national government. The Social Democrats and the Free Democrats, a pro-business opposition party, each gained 2 points in Sunday's poll, rising to 15 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

If the chancellor were elected by popular vote rather than parliament, the Greens' Annalena Baerbock would take 26 per cent, compared to 16 per cent for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the SPD's candidate, and 15 per cent for the CDU-CSU's Laschet, according to an Insa poll for Bild am Sonntag.

Baerbock, a 40-year-old who's never held a government post, was favoured over Laschet in a survey of 1,500 German business executives last month. With Merkel, 66, set to bow out after 16 years as chancellor, it's the latest sign that the Green party, which grew out of West Germany's environmentalist and anti-war movements four decades ago, is now mainstream.

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