Have Germans had enough of Mutti?
Winning a fourth term as chancellor was never going to be a cakewalk for Angela Merkel. Much has changed since she bagged her third back in 2013, before the refugee crisis, Brexit, the growth of European populism, and the election of US president Donald Trump reset political agendas. Now, according to a recent YouGov poll (link in German), about two thirds of Germans think that after having Merkel in office for the past 12 years, it’s time for a new leader.
To the question “do you think it’s time for a change in who is the chancellor of Germany?,” 42% of those polled said “definitely” (auf jeden Fall) and 22% said “yes, probably” (eher ja). In the east of Germany, where her refugee policies have been widely slammed, 69% of those polled think she should go, versus 63% in the West.
That almost two thirds of respondents are ready for a leadership change isn’t great news for Merkel, who has been blindsided in the polls by the sudden popularity of her main rival, Martin Schulz.
Schulz, the head of the Social Democrats, has outshone Merkel in recent polls asking people which of the two they’d pick if they could directly choose the chancellor. His ability to freely speak up against populism, Brexit, and Trump has endeared him to many. Plus, he’s simply a new face on the scene, which to people who’ve known one chancellor for eons, can be a plus.
Schulz is also managing to invigorate the tepid SPD too (the junior coalition partner in government with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union). A poll published on Feb. 14 by Spiegel Online (link in German) suggested that the recent SPD euphoria is showing no signs of abating, and its closing the gap with the CDU: almost 30% of respondents said they’d pick the SPD, versus 33% who would go with the Christian Democrats.
The YouGov poll, meanwhile found that 35% of Germans thought the CDU would fare better in the elections without Merkel as their candidate.
Of course, polls are often wrong, and Merkel still has seven months to go until the elections—but when she said this would be her hardest election yet, she wasn’t wrong.