Germany’s SPD seen beating Merkel’s conservatives in election, says poll
BERLINGermany’s Social Democrats (SPD) would beat Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives if an election was held today, a poll said on Feb. 6, showing the center-left party was still building on positive momentum after electing former European Parliament head Martin Schulz as leader.
The SPD, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, has been trailing the conservatives for years in opinion polls and last won an election under Gerhard Schroeder in 2002.
The poll by INSA for Bild newspaper put the SPD on 31 percent, and the conservatives on 30 percent, according to Reuters.
The populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) was projected third with 12 percent, followed by the hard-left Die Linke on 10 percent.
Meanwhile, Merkel formally united her conservative block behind her re-election bid on the same day as the poll was released, despite discord over migrant policy, as she faces tough challenges from both the right and left.
While a huge refugee influx has fuelled the rise of the anti-immigration AfD party, Merkel is also under pressure from her center-left coalition partners the Social Democrats, who have enjoyed a sudden spike in popularity.
In view of the twin threat, Merkel and Horst Seehofer, head of the Bavarian CSU party, her traditional ally, on Feb. 6 said they had buried the hatchet after openly feuding over the migrant crisis.
“We will jointly head into this election battle,” said Seehofer, premier of Bavaria state, who had long been Merkel’s fiercest conservative critic over the influx that has brought more than a million asylum seekers to Germany since 2015.
Despite their unresolved differences - notably the CSU’s demand to cap migrant arrivals at 200,000 a year from now on - they agreed to fight together in what Merkel said would be her “toughest election campaign” yet.
The latest poll results “challenge us to put up a decent fight” in September’s general election, Merkel said at a joint press conference with Seehofer after a two-day meeting of the parties dubbed the “peace summit” by the media.
And Seehofer praised Merkel, saying that under her more than decade-long leadership, Europe’s top economy was an “island of stability.”