BERLIN, Aug.29 (Reuters) – The campaign to replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel intensified on Sunday after an opinion poll showed that the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) are opening a larger ahead of Merkel’s conservatives.
Support for the SPD increased by two points from last week to 24%, their best result in four years according to the INSA poll conducted for the newspaper Bild am Sonntag. The Conservatives fell one point to 21%, their lowest ever recorded by INSA.
Germany goes to the polls on September 26 when Merkel steps down as chancellor after 16 years in office and four consecutive national electoral victories. Merkel’s impending departure has weakened support for her conservative alliance.
This is the second investigation last week that has given the SPD a head start. Support for Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their sister Bavarian party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has steadily declined in recent weeks.
The bloc’s candidate for chancellor CDU chairman Armin Laschet has come under fire since he was caught on camera laughing during a visit last month to a flood-hit town.
In a hypothetical direct vote for the Chancellor, the INSA poll showed that the SPD candidate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, would get 31% of the vote, against 10% for Laschet and 14% for the Greens candidate, Annalena Baerbock.
The three candidates are due to hold a televised debate on Sunday evening.
Despite the SPD’s lead in the polls, they would still need to team up with two other parties to rule, which sparked a discussion of possible coalition partners that would be acceptable.
Scholz refused to rule out collaboration with far-left Linke in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, although he said any government must commit to joining NATO.
Le Linke, who currently polls around 6%, calls for the abolition of NATO in his electoral manifesto.
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soeder, who rejected calls to replace Laschet as the Conservative candidate, warned that Germany would go left under a government led by the SPD. He said he hoped the debate would help Laschet turn the tide.
“He (Laschet) can become chancellor and would do a good job leading Germany,” he told ARD television.
Laschet questioned the commitment of the SPD and the Greens to support the military, saying at an event on Saturday that they had blocked measures in the past to protect the soldiers.
Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Alexander Ratz; Editing by Jan Harvey and Andrew Heavens
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