Steinmeier plummets in polls

Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s uphill battle to become Germany’s next chancellor just got steeper: the popularity of Angela Merkel's Social Democratic (SPD) challenger plunged to a new low in a poll released Friday.

Steinmeier plummets in polls
Photo: DPA

If Germans could choose the chancellor directly, Steinmeier would get just 27 percent of the vote versus 60 percent for Merkel, according to the survey commissioned by public broadcaster ARD.

Though Germans vote for political parties and not individual candidates to lead the country, the so-called “chancellor question” is seen as an important barometer of public sentiment.

Merkel managed to improve her poll rating among likely voters by five points from last month’s survey, while Steinmeier lost five points.

The news that Germans don’t see the current foreign minister as cut out for the Chancellery is the latest piece of bad news for Steinmeier and his centre-left Social Democrats.

The party took a beating in Sunday’s European Parliament elections, drawing a record low 20.8 percent of the vote against the 37.9 percent share that Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, drew.

Looking forward to the September 27 elections, the poll showed the CDU/CSU union garnering 36 percent support from likely voters, a two point increase from the last survey. Support for their possible coalition partners, the free-market Free Democratic Party (FDP), was unchanged at 14 percent, meaning the conservatives and FDP could form a majority government.

The SDP got support from 25 percent of voters, a two point drop from the previous poll.

Though Steinmeier fares dismally as a candidate for chancellor, Germans are happy with the job he’s doing as foreign minister: 63 percent of the survey respondents said they were pleased with his work as Germany’s top diplomat.

The ARD telephone survey was carried out by the polling firm Infratest dimap from Monday to Wednesday of this week with 1,500 voting-eligible participants from across Germany.

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How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP