Germany’s Social Democrats Overtake Merkel’s Bloc in Poll
(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s Social Democrats overtook Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc for the first time in 15 years, prompting a top conservative ally to go on the attack.
Markus Soeder, head of the Bavarian sister party of her alliance, offered a taste of what the German conservatives will campaign on in the coming weeks. Speaking Tuesday in a Bloomberg webinar, he raised the specter of a SPD-led government that would impose “brutal indebtedness,” abandon balanced budgets and back “massive” tax hikes.
The Social Democrats have called for a looser fiscal policy, new taxes on the rich, including a wealth tax, though support tax relief for the less wealthy.
About a month before the Sept. 26 election, support for the SPD increased to 23%, while the CDU/CSU slipped to 22%, according to a Forsa poll for broadcaster RTL/ntv. It was the first time the SPD led in the survey since October 2006
The survey underscores how momentum has shifted to the Social Democrats. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the party’s chancellor candidate, is far more popular than Armin Laschet, the contender for Merkel’s bloc, according to polls asking Germans who they would prefer as their leader.
Soeder said current polls don’t yet reflect the bloc’s full campaign effort.
“I think we can remain number one,” the 54-year-old said. He added that his expectations have been lowered in recent weeks and noted it will be a “head-to-head” contest until the final day of the campaign.
“I admit that a few weeks ago, I would have had higher goals” than 30% of the vote, he said. “The truth is that now it’s about who will lead.”
A former Hamburg mayor and trained labor lawyer, the 63-year-old Scholz has played up his experience helping protect jobs and businesses from the fallout of the coronavirus. His low-key pragmatism has similarities to Merkel, who remains Germany’s most popular politician.
Laschet, meanwhile, has struggled to convince voters of his leadership potential. After a messy nomination battle, the 60-year-old state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia committed a series of gaffes on the campaign trail -- including laughing in the midst of flood wreckage.
Despite higher approval ratings, Soeder fell short in his bid to be the conservative candidate, losing out in April to Laschet -- head of the larger Christian Democratic party.
With Merkel leaving politics after 16 years as chancellor, her conservative alliance is in danger of losing power for the first time since she defeated the SPD’s Gerhard Schroeder in 2005.
The Social Democrats were briefly ahead of Merkel’s bloc in some other polls in early 2017, but Merkel went on to win the election later that year by more than 10 points, securing a fourth term.
The party that wins the most support will have the opportunity to form a ruling coalition, which is getting increasingly complex. Six parties are likely to gain enough support to enter parliament, and recent polls point to a broad range of possible combinations.
The most likely outcome is a three-way alliance, with either the SPD or the conservative bloc at the helm. The Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats could also play a role in Germany’s next government.
The Greens gained one point to 18% in the Forsa poll, while the FDP had 12%, The far-right AfD was in fifth place with 10%, and the Left was last with 6%. Forsa polled the party preferences of 2,504 people between Aug. 17 and Aug. 23. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 points.
Soeder stands to play a key role in talks to form a governing coalition after the vote, if the conservatives prevail. He reiterated that Laschet has his “full support,” despite mistakes made on the campaign trail.
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