Support for Merkel’s party slides in new opinion poll
BERLIN, May 23 — Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives has slid to its lowest level in over half a year following their drubbing in an important regional election, according to a new opinion poll published today.
The survey by Forsa for Stern magazine is the second this week to show a substantial narrowing of the gap between Merkel’s conservative bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the big winners in the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW).
It comes against a backdrop of rising pressure on Merkel — from international partners and from opposition parties at home — to take bolder steps to boost growth in stricken euro zone members like Greece and Spain.
The Forsa poll showed support for Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) tumbling four points to 31 per cent, its lowest level since October 2011 and down from 38 per cent in February. The SPD rose one point to 27 per cent, just four points behind.
“The election disaster (in NRW) has irritated a lot of CDU supporters,” Forsa chief Manfred Guellner said. “State election defeats often lead to this kind of drop in support.”
Guellner said there were no signs that Merkel’s own popularity had been affected by the regional setback. In a face-to-face contest against Hannelore Kraft, the rising SPD star who won the NRW vote, 48 per cent of those surveyed backed Merkel and only 29 per cent her centre-left rival.
But the poll result will be a source of concern for Merkel’s party. A separate survey by INSA for the Bild newspaper yesterday had the CDU just one point ahead of the SPD.
The embarrassing loss in Germany’s most populous state prompted Merkel to fire her environment minister Norbert Roettgen last week.
Roettgen had been the lead candidate for the CDU in NRW, where the party scored its worst result in the post-war era, and had been playing an important role in steering the government’s energy strategy following Merkel’s shock decision last year to accelerate a phase-out of nuclear power.
The chancellor is due to meet state premiers today morning to try to get the stalled “Energiewende”, or energy switch, back on track, before heading to an EU summit in Brussels to discuss new steps to combat the bloc’s debt crisis. — Reuters