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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, September 23, 2017

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As September election draws close, Merkel’s popularity drops

German parliamentary election

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BERLIN, Germany - With the September German parliamentary election merely six weeks away, a new poll has now revealed that German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s popularity has slid.

As Merkel returned to the political fray after a three week holiday, a new opinion poll has shown that her personal popularity rating dropped 10 percentage points. 

Analysts claim that her relaxed approach to the campaign is the main reason she has suffered the rating drop.

Further, the widely followed ARD television poll recently pointed out that the chancellor’s approval rating was down to 59 percent from 69 percent in July.

Citing reasons for the slide, the poll report pointed out at Merkel’s relaxed approach to election campaigning, the violent anti-G20 demonstrations in Hamburg, the city’s fatal Islamist knife attack and the widening diesel scandal. 

According to the ARD opinion poll, public concerns about the diesel scandal, in which German carmakers are accused of cheating emissions tests is currently high. 

It said that of those surveyed 67 percent said the government’s approach was too lenient and 56 percent said German industry would suffer damage. 

Despite the drop, report indicates that Merkel’s score still makes her one of the most popular western leaders.

Within the country too, Merkel remains comfortably ahead of her main challenger, the Social Democrat chief, Martin Schulz.

Schulz’ rating stood at 33 percent, down four percentage points. 

The poll also showed that Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc also retained a commanding poll lead.

However, Werner Patzelt, politics professor at Dresden Technical University, warned against linking the sudden drop in Merkel’s support only to recent events. 

Patzelt pointed out that the decline could also be due to general resentment that the election offered no real choice.

He reportedly argued that when the rightwing Alternative for Germany seemed a threat during the 2015-16 refugee crisis and during Schulz’s brief rise in popularity earlier this year, Germans could see alternatives. 

Patzelt said, “Now people may resent the fact after 12 years of Merkel, they are offered only more Merkel.”

In the past, Merkel has won praise from election strategists for her skill in playing down issues as a strategy to disarm the opposition in what analysts call “asymmetric demobilisation.” 

Meanwhile, a separate FT poll tracker showed that Merkel currently has 39 percent against the SPD’s 24 percent, leaving Merkel unchallenged as the firm favourite to win the September 24 vote in which she is competing for a fourth term.

Another Forsa polling suggested that Merkel’s CDU/CSU will emerge victorious in September with a significant lead over the SPD, though it would short of the majority needed.

This week, CDU general secretary, Peter Tauber warned against complacency in the ranks.

Tauber said, “It’s clear to us that the election isn’t in the bag yet.”  

Merkel meanwhile completed her holiday, during which she addressed a handful of rallies and is now stepping up her campaign with an address to CDU supporters in Dortmund on Saturday.

She also has a string of meetings and television appearances scheduled next week.

Germany’s biggest-selling newspaper, Bild recently attacked Merkel for failing to engage on a host of issues, including delays in deporting failed asylum seekers, even those suspected of Islamist sympathies.

The newspaper in various reports questioned the low-key response to the “chaos” surrounding the G20 summit, when hundreds of protesters locked horns with the police.

Germany will head to the polls on September 24 to elect its new government. 

If she wins a fourth term, among the main challenges Merkel would face are managing security concerns, public spending demands and the overhaul of the EU.

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