Greens Keep Poll Lead in Race for Merkel’s Chancellery

Germany’s Greens have cemented a robust advantage in the early stages of the election campaign, boosting their chances of capturing the chancellery in September and pushing through a heavily environmentalist reform agenda.

Bolstered by a youthful image and strong climate credentials, the Greens surged past Angela Merkel’s center-right bloc in three polls in the past week, with one putting them six points ahead at 28%. A new survey published Sunday confirmed the trend with Merkel’s bloc falling to a 14-month low of 24%. The Greens lost 1 percentage point to 27%, still close to their biggest mark in about two years.

The polls offer the first gauges of voter intent following the nomination of the parties’ candidates, and the Greens’ early momentum gives the former fringe party a realistic shot at leading a ruling coalition for the first time.

Their recent surge is partly down to Annalena Baerbock at the head of the party ticket, who many see as a force for renewal after more than 15 years of Merkel administrations. Since her nomination, the Greens have added more than 3,700 new members, pushing the total above 110,000 people.

A Forsa poll published April 28 showed the 40-year-old would win comfortably if Germans could elect their chancellor directly. She would trounce Armin Laschet, the drab 60-year-old candidate for Merkel’s conservative alliance, who has been struggling to gain support even from his own party after a messy nomination fight.

Greens Keep Poll Lead in Race for Merkel’s Chancellery

“The campaign is perceived as pitting a modern, future-oriented woman against an older candidate who stands for the past,” said Forsa head Manfred Guellner. “This race is not over yet, but Laschet will have to seriously strengthen his profile if he wants to win back voters.”

The polls underscore how the Greens have succeeded in appealing to a broader swath of voters attracted by policies ranging from greater climate protection to agricultural reform.

They’ve moved closer toward the political center in recent years, forming alliances with more conservative groups and tweaking party programs. The Greens have also won plaudits for successfully running the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg for the past decade, an industrial powerhouse home to carmaker Daimler AG and software developer SAP SE.

A Green victory could lead to a thorough shakeup of Europe’s biggest economy. The cornerstone of their campaign is a 10-year, 500 billion-euro ($604 billion) program to invest in initiatives including high-speed internet, quantum computers, biotechnology and climate-neutral infrastructure.

They also aim to accelerate the shift to renewables under a plan that includes installing solar panels on every new roof and using 2% of German land for wind power.

Laschet’s bloc has slumped by around 10 points since early February, and surveys suggest voters find him uninspiring as a potential leader. Nearly 85% of those polled by Civey last month said they probably or definitely wouldn’t trust him to successfully modernize the country.

Germany’s top court dealt the conservatives another unexpected blow on Thursday when it ruled that the country’s climate-protection efforts are falling short, ordering changes to a law aimed at cutting emissions.

The rebuke of the government’s climate policy could provide fresh momentum to the Greens as they’re seen as having the most expertise on environmental issues.

A scandal over claims that some CDU/CSU lawmakers profited from selling face-masks, and frustration over the government’s recent handling of the pandemic is also costing the center-right bloc support, said Paul Zernitz, a partner at Berlin-based pollster Civey GmbH.

“Especially younger voters are favoring the Greens in recent weeks and that trend seems to be stabilizing,” Zernitz said. “For Laschet, catching up in just five months won’t be easy.”

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