Merkel beats Schroeder in popularity stakes

27th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

27 May 2005, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's likely challenger in autumn national elections, conservative Angela Merkel, surged ahead of the German leader for the first time in a personal popularity poll released on Friday.

27 May 2005

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's likely challenger in autumn national elections, conservative Angela Merkel, surged ahead of the German leader for the first time in a personal popularity poll released on Friday.

Merkel was given a 50 percent approval rating in the closely watched ZDF TV Politbarometer poll. Schroeder, in contrast, was at 44 percent.

The development is significant because Schroeder has always been far more popular than Merkel and plans to run a campaign stressing his person as opposed to his Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Poltibarometer also stressed that conservative candidate Edmund Stoiber, who was narrowly defeated by Schroeder in 2002, never once managed to beat the chancellor's personal popularity.

If elections were held now, Schroeder's ruling SPD-Greens alliance would win 38 percent, compared with 51 percent for Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and her Free Democratic Party (FDP) ally, the poll said.

Another TNS Infratest poll gave the CDU/CSU an even better 53 percent, compared to 36 percent for the SPD. But it gave Schroeder a higher popularity rating of 41 percent, compared to 37 percent for Merkel.

German elections are expected to be held 18 September. Schroeder called for the early vote after his party was badly defeated by the CDU in regional elections in the key industrial state of North Rhine- Westphalia last Sunday.

"There is a clear mood for change similar to that in 1998," said Politbarometer in a reference to the year in which Schroeder forced then chancellor Helmut Kohl from office.

The poll found that 60 percent of people want a new party in power in Berlin, while 36 percent say Schroeder should stay and 4 percent say they don't know.

Unemployment is a top voter concern with the jobless rate at 12 percent and 4.9 million people out of work in Germany.

The Politbarometer poll followed surveys over the past months by showing 43 percent believe Merkel's CDU/CSU would manage to create more jobs, compared with just 12 percent saying Schroeder's SPD can do better.

Meanwhile, tensions flared between Schroeder and his Greens partners over a planned corporate tax cut.

Schroeder's chief spokesman, Bela Anda, made an unusual attack on the Greens for allegedly planning to vote against tax legislation.

But Greens foreign minister and vice-chancellor Joschka Fischer denied this and said his party was still considering the legislation.

In another development, a left-wing alliance sought by former German finance minister and ex-SPD chief Oskar Lafontaine is finding a positive response among some voters.

Asked if they could imagine voting for a Lafontaine bloc of the Work and Social Justice Election Alternative (WASG) and the post-East German communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), 22 percent of those surveyed by Poltibarometer and 18 percent in the TNS Infratest poll said 'yes'.

But Politbaromter stressed that this figure in no way meant such a party - if it is founded - would ever win so many votes in a real election.

DPA

Subject: German news

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