Germany's Merkel vows party will fight as polls worsen
Merkel's Union bloc has been sagging in polls for weeks as Armin Laschet, the leader of her Christian Democratic Union party and the center-right candidate to succeed her as chancellor, so far has failed to impress voters. Laschet is the governor of Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia.
This week, a clutch of surveys showed it level with or even marginally behind the center-left Social Democrats, whose experienced candidate — Olaf Scholz, the vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel's coalition government — has gained in popularity as the Sept. 26 election nears. Others have given it only a skimpy lead.
That's a shock for the Union, which until recent months was used to healthy poll leads, because the Social Democrats have long been mired in a poll slump. Current surveys show the environmentalist Greens, who are making their first run for the chancellery with Annalena Baerbock, a few points behind the pair.
“We are fighting, or the party is fighting — I personally am not up for election,” Merkel said when asked about the polls at a news conference in Berlin. She pointed to a “good opening” to its official campaign on Saturday.
“We will work every day to get a good election result and not look every day at the polls,” Merkel added. “Ultimately it is the ballots of voters in the ballot box that count.”
“The problems that arise — the pandemic and now this very, very bitter issue of Afghanistan — will be dealt with ... by the government in such a way that is as good as possible for people in our country,” she said.
Laschet himself wouldn't be drawn on the polls and rejected suggestions that his campaign is suffering from a lack of support inside the Union bloc.
“The support is there, and you know I don't evaluate polls when they're good and when they're bad,” he told reporters in a separate appearance in Berlin. “We must exert ourselves, and everyone knows that everyone counts. That will give us motivation in the last five weeks until the election.”
Merkel announced in 2018 that she wouldn't seek a fifth four-year term.