Germany heads to the polls on September 26 after which political parties will have to put aside their differences and attempt to form a coalition. For the past two political terms, Germany’s largest two parties the centre-right Union and centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have paired up to form a Grand Coalition. But now both parties are keen for change and Ms Merkel’s party success with voters appears to be faltering – with polls showing a rapid decline earlier this year. But why did support for the CDU/CSU drop ahead of the German election?
According to Politico’s Poll of Polls, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is currently in the lead position with 25 percent of the vote.
The poll aggregator tool puts the Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) four percentage points behind at 21 percent as of September 13.
Third and fourth place in the polls are the Greens and Free Democratic Party (FDP) at 16 and 12 percent respectively.
Right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD), Die Linke (The Left) and Free Voters (FW) are next with 11, six and three percent of the vote respectively.
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Ms Merkel’s party was actually faring well with voters before March 2021 with 35 to 36 percent of the vote share on average.
But support for the CDU/CSU then began to wane and the party saw support for the party drop exponentially – hitting lows of 24 percent from April 24 to May 8, and 21 percent on August 29 to September 13.
Now new projections for this year’s election currently indicate SPD, FDP and the Greens will make gains, while the CDU/CSU, AfD and the Left will see losses in terms of vote share.
And many political experts claim the fall in support can be attributed to growing tension surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Germany was initially widely praised for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, swiftly taking action in the initial stages of the crisis by isolating cases and tracing contacts.
This strategy kept fatalities low but now, more than a year on, the situation has been very different during this year.
Ms Merkel’s party suffered record defeats in two regional votes in March amid anger over the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, including muddled messages and a slow vaccine rollout.
The southwestern states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate overwhelmingly rejected the CDU at the polls, instead electing the Greens and the SPD respectively to mark Ms Merkel’s party’s worst result in post-World War II Germany.
Der Spiegel wrote at the time that Ms Merkel’s house was “on fire”, adding: “It can’t go on like this.”
While Markus Blume, the CSU secretary-general, called the drubbing a “wake-up call”, saying the parties urgently need to “win back trust” if they hoped to get anywhere in the federal elections.
He added: “We need clear decisions and a clear course in the fight against the coronavirus.”
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The recent drop in support for the CDU/CSU can also be attributed to the performance of CDU leader Armin Laschet, who came under fire after he was caught on camera laughing during a visit to a flood-stricken town.
He was judged to have lost a heated televised debate in late August according to a snap poll for Bild TV which showed he lost three percentage points to reach a record low of 20 percent.
Germany’s centre-left SPD extended its lead, jumping two percentage points to 25 percent – its highest reading in the survey in four years.
However, this is not a new trend – and in fact there has been a long term pattern of decline in votes for the CDU/CSU.
Since the 1983 election, the Union has always polled below 40 percentage points with one exception when, in 2013, the party was able to convince 41.5 percent of voters to back them.
According to a recent poll published by the Allensbach Institute for Public Opinion Research and commissioned by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 40 percent of voters are still undecided on how they will cast their ballot on polling day.
This figure is a record high according to the survey with 63 percent of respondents claiming lead candidates for each of the larger parties are unconvincing.
A total of 56 percent of voters in the poll said no party looks like a good choice to them, despite 87 percent saying they plan to vote and 72 percent sure they will actually vote.
These woeful responses indicate political supply is wildly out of sync with electoral demand – meaning the upcoming 2021 federal election is likely to be the most significant seen in decades.