German election campaign heats up as Merkel’s conservatives slide

germany politics elections

BERLIN — The campaign over who will replace German Chancellor Angela Merkel heated up on Sunday after a new opinion poll showed the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) opening up a bigger lead over Merkel’s conservatives.

Support for the SPD rose two points from last week to 24%, their highest result in four years according to the INSA poll conducted for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. The conservatives lost a point to 21%, their lowest ever polled.

Germany goes to the polls on Sept. 26, when Merkel steps down as chancellor after 16 years in office and four straight national election victories. Merkel’s imminent departure has weakened support for her conservative alliance.

It was the second survey in the last week that has put the SPD ahead. Support for Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), has been falling steadily in recent weeks.

The bloc’s candidate for chancellor, CDU chairman Armin Laschet, has been under fire since he was caught on camera laughing during a visit last month to a town hit by floods.

In a hypothetical direct vote for chancellor, the INSA poll showed that the SPD’s candidate, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, would take 31% of the vote, compared to just 10% for Laschet and 14% for the Greens candidate Annalena Baerbock.

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