Merkel's choice for president unpopular: poll

9th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Angela Merkel's choice for German president is much less popular than the opposition's candidate, a new poll showed on Wednesday, adding to the chancellor's headaches.

According to the Forsa survey for Stern magazine, 32 percent of those questioned would vote for the conservative Christian Wulff, Merkel's pick, compared with 42 percent for former pastor Joachim Gauck -- if they could.

The new German head of state, whose job is mostly ceremonial but who acts as a kind of national moral arbiter, is not chosen by popular vote but will be elected by a special assembly of MPs and public figures on June 30.

The previous president, Horst Koehler, quit abruptly last week.

Merkel's coalition has a majority in this assembly, meaning Wulff, currently Lower Saxony state premier, is all but assured of beating Gauck, a former East German human rights activist and the candidate of the opposition Social Democrats and the Greens.

But the fact that Wulff, 50, does not appear to be popular will come as unwelcome news to Merkel.

Koehler's resignation was just the latest in a series of setbacks eight months into Merkel's second term that has seen her popularity crumble amid squabbling within the coalition and uproar over her promise of billions of euros in taxpayers' money to fend off a eurozone crisis.

The German media are also leaning towards Gauck, 70, the ex-director of the vast archives left behind by the Stasi, the despised communist secret police, with Spiegel magazine's cover this week calling him "the better president."

Gauck has also won a wave of popular support on the Internet, reportedly drawing supporters on the social networking website Facebook at a much faster rate than Wulff since the race began.

The far-left Die Linke party, which is made up of former East German communists and disgruntled Social Democrats, has put forward its own candidate, Luc Jochimsen, 74, an MP and former journalist and the only woman in the race.

© 2010 AFP

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