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German SPD extends lead over Merkel's sliding conservatives

German SPD extends lead over Merkel's sliding conservatives

Election posters of Germany's top candidates for chancellor Annalena Baerbock, co-leader of the Green party; North Rhine-Westphalia State Premier and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader, Armin Laschet and Olaf Scholz, German Minister of Finance of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) (L-R) are seen in Hamburg, Germany Aug 31, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)

BERLIN: Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) have opened up a five-point lead over Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives ahead of a Sept. 26 national election that promises multiple coalition options, a poll showed on Thursday (Sep 2).

The centre-left SPD's surge in polls has dimmed the prospects of another victory by the conservatives, whose promise of "steadfastness" is failing to resonate with voters concerned by climate change, immigration and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Infratest dimap poll for broadcaster ARD put support for the SPD at 25 per cent, with the conservative CDU/CSU bloc on 20 per cent, the Greens on 16 per cent, the liberal Free Democrats on 13 per cent, the far-right Alternative for Germany on 12 per cent and the far-left Linke on 6 per cent.

Support for the SPD was up seven points from early August and it was down seven points for the conservatives, according to the poll of 1,337 voters conducted from Monday to Wednesday.

The upshot is that only three-way coalitions look plausible after the election, raising the prospect of extensive negotiations to form a new government. Merkel, in power since 2005, plans to stand down after the vote.

Armin Laschet, leader of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is trying to breathe life into his campaign after a snap poll suggested he lost a heated televised debate with his two main rivals on Sunday.

On Friday, Laschet plans to present eight lieutenants - four women and four men - to reinforce his campaign on key issues. Thursday's poll showed the top topics for voters are climate protection, followed by immigration and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Party sources told Reuters that Laschet's team will include Friedrich Merz, an erstwhile rival for the party leadership who carries weight with voters on the right of the political spectrum. Laschet styles himself as a centrist, like Merkel.

Laschet has been under fire since he was caught on camera laughing during a July visit to a flood-hit town. The CDU's slide marks a remarkable fall after 16 years in office and four straight national election victories under Merkel.

In a rare campaign intervention, Merkel took aim on Tuesday at the SPD's candidate, Olaf Scholz, for declining to rule out a coalition with the far-left Linke. Conservatives say this would mean a big lurch away from Germany's centrist mainstream.

Scholz remains by far the most popular candidate. The Infratest dimap poll showed that in a hypothetical direct vote for chancellor, he would win 43 per cent of the vote, against 16 per cent for Laschet and 12 per cent for the Greens' Annalena Baerbock.

Source: Reuters

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