German chancellor candidate Laschet loses favour with voters: poll

With only 50 days until Germany's federal election, the frontrunner to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor -- CDU/CSU candidate Armin Laschet -- is fast losing favour with voters, according to the latest poll.

German chancellor candidate Laschet loses favour with voters: poll
The popularity of North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier Armin Laschet, also candidate for chancellor of Germany's conservative CDU/CSU union, has dropped in recent polls. (Photo by Bernd Lauter / AFP)

Only 24 percent of those surveyed in the latest ARD “Deutschlandtrend” (Germany trend) poll were satisfied with Laschet,  German daily Bild reported on Saturday.

This was a full 13 percentage points less than a month ago.

Laschet, currently state premier in North-Rhine Westphalia, has been criticised for his crisis management ability and recently came under fire for his response to the floods, which badly hit his own state. To make matters worse, he was captured on camera laughing while German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid homage to flood victims.

READ ALSO: Frontrunner to succeed Merkel as chancellor on back foot after flood disaster

The polls indicated that the Green candidate Annalena Baerbock was also quite unpopular; with 27 percent (down 1 percent on the previous month) she was rated only slightly better than Laschet.

These represent historically bad values for both candidates.

For comparison, in the last Deutschlandtrend survey before 2017’s federal election, Union candidate Angela Merkel was well ahead with a 64 percent approval rating. The top Green candidate back then — Cem Özdemir — also fared well with 55 percent.

In the latest poll, SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz came out as by far the most popular of the three candidates for chancellor with a 48 percent satisfaction rating.

If it were possible to vote directly for the chancellor, Scholz would win by a clear margin: 35 percent would vote for him — an increase of 6 percentage points on the previous month. Laschet would only get 20 percent — down eight percentage points, while Baerbock could get 16 percent of the vote (down 2 percentage points on the previous month).

Interestingly, both Laschet and Baerbock were also less popular than their respective internal competitors. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed were satisfied with CSU boss Markus Söder, who would have liked to run for the CDU/CSU Union instead of Laschet.

Robert Habeck, who yielded the Greens’ candidacy to Baerbock, received an approval rating of 36 percent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel remained the most popular politician with a 66 percent approval rating (down 3 percentage points on the previous month).

The poll by Infratest dimap surveyed 1,312 people who are entitled to vote in 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