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POLITICS

Nearly two thirds of voters think Seehofer ‘intolerable’

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer's popularity has nosedived among voters, suggesting his explosive spat with Chancellor Angela Merkel over migration may have backfired.

Nearly two thirds of voters think Seehofer 'intolerable'
"Troublemaker" German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Photo:DPA

Nearly two thirds of Germans now see the minister as a 'troublemaker,' according to Monday's Forsa trend barometer. The same number, 62 percent, see him as 'no longer tolerable.' 

Minister Seehofer has repeatedly made headlines in recent weeks by challenging Chancellor Merkel over her immigration policy, even threatening to resign after failing to gain guarantees of tougher policing along Germany's borders.

But with this explosive behavior, Seehofer, who is also leader of the Bavarian Christian Socialist Union (CSU), appears to have alienated both the electorate and his own party.

Among CSU voters, the number of those considering Seehofer no longer tolerable remains high at 56%, with less than half of the party’s followers considering him an upstanding politician. 

Minister Seehofer is not the only CSU politician whose ratings have slipped.

Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder has clearly lost the trust of the public and has fallen with Seehofer to the bottom of the rankings.

The only people to come below the two CSU politicians in the popularity index are Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) leaders Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland.

The poll will be unsettling for the CSU, which faces Bavarian state parliament elections in just three months.

But it will be welcomed by Chancellor Merkel, who remains the highest ranked politician amongst Bavarians and the wider country with a 47 point approval rating, as opposed to Söder’s 32 and Seehofer’s 31.

The poll suggests the only group with whom Seehofer remains popular is AfD voters, who are gleefully watching the damage he is inflicting upon the CSU.

“Seehofer only remains valued by AfD followers, who want to tackle the CSU,” Forsa boss Manfred Güllner told RTL.

Güllner laid the blame for Seehofer's popularity nosedive squarely at the minister's own feet.

Seehofer had gambled away his credibility among voters and within his own party during his series of recent controversial public appearances, Güllner added.

POLITICS

Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

The last time Germany hosted a G7 summit, then-chancellor Angela Merkel produced a series of viral images with Barack Obama, clinking giant mugs in a traditional Bavarian beer garden and communing against a verdant Alpine backdrop.

Can German Chancellor Scholz create a Merkel-like buzz at the G7 in Bavaria?

Her successor Olaf Scholz, hobbled in domestic opinion polls and of modest global stature, may struggle to match that convivial atmosphere when leaders gather again from Sunday.

The centrist Scholz, 64, assumed the presidency of the Group of Seven rich countries in January, just a month after taking office in Berlin.

Since then his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, soaring inflation and energy supply complications have put his government to the test while sending his approval ratings plunging.

READ ALSO: Opinion – Scholz is already out of step at Germany – it’s time for a change of course

Scholz told parliament on Wednesday he was ready to seize the three days of talks at the Elmau Castle mountain resort – the same remote, picturesque venue Merkel chose in 2015 – to burnish Germany’s global image and the standing of the West.

“In Europe’s biggest security crisis for decades, Germany as the economically strongest and most populous country in the EU is assuming special responsibility – and not just for its own security but also for the security of its allies,” he said.

A series of summits in the coming days must show “that G7, EU and NATO are as united as ever” and that the “democracies of the world are standing together in the fight against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s imperialism,” Scholz said.

READ ALSO: Germany tightens border controls ahead of G7 summit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives at the EU summit in Brussels on June 23rd 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Olivier Matthys

‘Merkel tradition’

Joachim Trebbe, a professor of political communication at Berlin’s Free University, said Scholz had a “huge opportunity” with the G7 to dispel any doubts about his leadership skills or resolve against the Russian president.

“At the start of his term and even when the war began, Scholz was quite reserved – perhaps a little bit in the tradition of Ms Merkel,” a
still-popular conservative the Social Democratic chancellor has sought to emulate, Trebbe said.

She also “tended to manage crises and didn’t pay much attention to informing the media at every step”.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel sit during a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 as part of the G7 summit.

Former US President Barack Obama and ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a concert visit in Elmau (Bavaria) in June 2015 during the G7 summit. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

After accusations of foot-dragging, Scholz’s attempts at a reset were on display during a long-delayed visit to Kyiv last week, joined by the leaders of France, Italy and Romania.

A journalist from the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung travelling with the chancellor noted that he had a tendency to make gaffes under pressure – like “an old tap that either releases ice-cold or boiling water”.

‘Symbols’

His trouble finding the middle ground had led him to exercise too much caution when it came to sending weapons to Ukraine, or too little, as when on a visit to Lithuania this month he significantly overstated German arms deliveries.   

The chancellor, whose sometimes robotic style has earned him the nickname Scholzomat, has also found himself outflanked in his own unwieldy ruling coalition of his Social Democrats (SPD), ecologist Greens and liberal Free Democrats.

A poll this week showed that the Greens – with popular Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck, both credited with clearer messaging on Ukraine — were leading the SPD in voter intentions for the first time since July 2021.

Both parties, however, are currently trailing the conservative opposition, which has relentlessly criticised Scholz’s Ukraine and energy policies as too timid.

READ ALSO: Why has Germany been so slow to deliver weapons to Ukraine?

Trebbe said that initiatives at the G7 bearing Scholz’s imprint on issues including future political and economic support for Ukraine, climate
protection and strengthening democracies worldwide were crucial if he hoped to gain political tailwinds from the summit.

But he said the gathering was nearly as much about generating images, such as the instant meme of Merkel, arms outstretched, explaining her world view to a nonchalant Obama, draped in repose on a wooden bench.

“That’s where symbols of unity, common strategy and strong leadership are created,” Trebbe said.

“I’m pretty sure Scholz has a team of professionals ready to take full advantage of that aspect of the summit.”

By Deborah COLE

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