Merkel bloc slumps in polls at the start of the campaign
BERLIN – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s potential successor pledged on Saturday to “fight with all I can” for victory in the September 26 election in Germany, as the longtime leader’s center-right bloc launched its official campaign amid a disturbing slump in its ratings poll.
Merkel joined Armin Laschet, state governor and head of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, in calling on voters to extend the party’s tenure in chancellery. Laschet is running to succeed Merkel after 16 years in power.
They both spoke at a rally in Berlin, with only a small crowd due to coronavirus restrictions as recent polls showed support for the Union bloc slipped to 23% – leaving him only a few points ahead of the center-left Social Democrats and Greens ecologists.
Polls also showed dismal personal popularity ratings for Laschet, even as his social democratic rival Olaf Scholz – the vice-chancellor of Merkel’s coalition government – gained ground.
Merkel announced in 2018 that she would not run for a fifth term as chancellor. The Union got 32.9% of the vote in the last elections, in 2017. In its best result under Merkel, the bloc won 41.5% in 2013.
Laschet has assaulted his left-wing rivals, saying they are planning tax hikes that risk strangling the economy even as it recovers from the pandemic and questioning their reliability on foreign policy. He underlined the Union’s public order benchmarks and insisted that offering economic incentives rather than banning things is the best way to tackle climate change without harming the industry .
“We will fight – I will fight with all that I can – so that this country is not invaded by ideologues, so that we have the possibility to implement our ideas for this modern Germany,” said Laschet. “This is what we fight for. We will give all we can, we will clearly make the differences with others. Who governs is fundamental. We want to govern.”
Laschet is a centrist figure in Merkel’s mold, but so far does not appear to have inspired voters or impressed people with his handling of the severe flooding that has hit his state, North Rhine-Westphalia – the most populous in ‘Germany – last month.
While Laschet declined to comment on recent polls, her rival for the nomination to succeed Merkel as chancellor has shown signs of impatience with the Union campaign. Laschet emerged victorious from a battle in April with Markus Soeder, the leader of the CDU’s brotherly Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union.
In a speech at Saturday’s rally, Soeder stressed that a center-right victory next month was not assured. He said the Union was facing its most difficult campaign since 1998, when then Chancellor Helmut Kohl – Merkel’s former mentor – lost power and “the trend at the moment is not on the rise “.
“Let’s be honest for a moment: it’s tight, and it will be very tight in the weeks to come,” said Soeder. “Everyone needs to understand today that everything is at stake. This is not the question we have philosophized about for months – who we might prefer to rule with. It is not the question how we rule, but maybe we do. “
Merkel, who noted that she had deliberately stayed out of the campaign since she stepped down from her party leadership almost three years ago, stepped in to offer Laschet a personal reference.
Laschet is “a person and a politician for whom the ‘C’ in our party’s name is not just any letter, but the compass for everything he has done and done,” she said. declared.
“In the 35 days that remain, it is worth fighting every hour for the CDU and CSU to be strong in the German parliament, for us to lead Germany to a good future, and of course, with Armin Laschet as future chancellor, “said Merkel.