Merkel Warns Against ‘Left-Wing Experiments’ Ahead of Key Vote

(Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel redoubled her bid to shore up power in one of the most important regional elections of her tenure, cautioning voters against “left-wing experiments.”

Merkel’s pitch at a rally of her Christian Democratic Union kicked off the final stretch of campaigning in Hesse, a region including Frankfurt that’s going to the polls on Sunday. Six weeks before a convention where Merkel is expected to seek re-election as party leader, the CDU’s showing will help determine whether she’ll halt an erosion of her authority after 13 years in office.

Merkel Warns Against ‘Left-Wing Experiments’ Ahead of Key Vote

Polls suggest that the CDU and the Social Democrats, which are partners in the national government, are headed for losses. Yet the CDU and the Green party may win enough votes to extend their coalition in the state of 6 million people, which is home to Germany’s financial industry.

“It will be close, but it can work,” Merkel told a rally at a hotel auditorium in the city of Kassel on Monday. One of her campaign themes is that turning out for the CDU will help avoid a left-leaning government that includes the anti-capitalist Left.

Public dissatisfaction with the governing parties in Berlin was laid bare two weeks ago in Bavaria, where the CDU’s sister party in the state, the Christian Social Union, fell to its lowest share of the vote since 1950.

While much of the malaise is due to the government’s policy clashes over migration, Germany’s diesel-car crisis and high rents also are campaign themes. Merkel is planning two more campaign stops in Hesse this week before heading to Istanbul for a four-nation summit on Syria on Saturday.

German ‘Anxiety’

Merkel acknowledged the “anxiety” pervading German politics, citing the convulsions surrounding the euro and the upheaval caused by the arrival of more than 1 million asylum seekers in Germany since 2015.

Helga, a 78-year-old retired CDU member who declined to give her surname, said after Merkel’s campaign speech that the refugee crisis continues to dominate politics.

“It’s a big issue and a lot of people don’t talk about it,” she said, adding that she’ll vote for the CDU. “She hasn’t done everything right.”

The CDU has governed Hesse since 1999, including the last five years with the Green party. Polls indicate the Greens have been the main benefactor of the political shift across Germany as well as the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

Regional support for Merkel’s CDU has declined to 26 percent compared with 38.3 percent in the last Hesse election in 2013, while the SPD is at 21 percent, a decline of 10 percentage points, according to an Oct. 18 Infratest Dimap poll for broadcaster ARD. The Greens nearly doubled their support to 20 percent, and the AfD polled 12 percent.

Voters Warned

An urgent factor for Merkel is also the fate of the Social Democrats, who dropped to a post-World War II low in Bavaria. Having reluctantly entered Merkel’s fourth-term government, the threat of another blowout is raising concern within the CDU-CSU bloc that the SPD might seek to bolt the coalition.

“The bigger risk for Merkel at this point is probably the SPD,” said Carsten Nickel, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.