Merkel Successor’s Sinking Popularity Opens Door to Challengers


(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor as head of Germany’s governing party slumped in a poll, opening the door to a renewed leadership challenge by one of her biggest antagonists.

Friedrich Merz, who has support among the Christian Democratic Union’s business wing and social conservatives, polled 31% support in an Emnid survey asking who would be the best CDU candidate to run for chancellor. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, whom Merkel backed in her bid for the party leadership in 2018, tallied 19% in the poll of 505 people.

The CDU’s choice of chancellor candidate will have potential implications for Europe’s biggest economy, relations with the U.S. and German domestic policy. Merkel has said she won’t run for a fifth term in the next election, which needs to be held by late 2021.

Merkel Successor’s Sinking Popularity Opens Door to Challengers

Merz, 63, lost to Kramp-Karrenbauer in the CDU’s last leadership vote. He has been needling Merkel’s government, which includes the Social Democrats as junior partner, saying on Twitter last week that he can’t imagine it’ll last a full term. Another tweet showed Merz with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in what he said was a discussion about trans-Atlantic relations.

Kramp-Karrenbauer has stumbled as party head and is facing questions about her leadership after a historic state election defeat in October. Once dominant in eastern Germany, the CDU finished third in voting for the Thuringia state assembly, falling behind the anti-capitalist Left party and the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Combined support for the CDU and the CSU, its Bavarian sister party, fell 2 percentage points from the previous week to 27%, according to Emnid polling for Bild am Sonntag newspaper. The Social Democrats and the AfD each gained 1 point to 16% and 15% respectively. The Greens party dropped 2 points to 18%.

Merkel Successor’s Sinking Popularity Opens Door to Challengers

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who’s also defense minister, reiterated last week that she intends to run for chancellor. She told party members who disagree to raise the matter at a regularly scheduled CDU national convention in December.

Thomas Strobl, a deputy national leader of the CDU, warned the party that has dominated German politics since World War II against tearing itself apart.

“The chattering damages the CDU,” Strobl was quoted as saying in Bild am Sonntag. “It would be bad if the signal is sent before the party conference in Leipzig that the CDU is concerned above all with itself.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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