Merkel departure would have ‘major impact’ on EU says Butikofer
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Ms Merkel will step down as German Chancellor next month after a remarkable 16 years at the helm. Armin Laschet, leader of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is the chosen candidate for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), on September 26.
But the chances of a smooth transition of power in favour of the ruling coalition have been rocked by the latest survey.
Support for the German conservatives has fallen by 10 points since the last election and Mr Laschet is polling just two points ahead of his closest rival.
With less than six weeks to go until the election, German Heath minister Jens Spahn has dismissed the prospect of an 11th hour change of candidate.
Markus Soeder, leader of the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, had been touted as a possible alternative to the 60-year-old.
But, Mr Spahn has set the record straight and told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper there are no plans to replace Mr Laschet with Mr Soeder.
In a fierce defence of his ally, the health chief added: “And you will get the same answer if you asked Soeder.”
The candidate for the CDU and CSU is currently polling at 23 percent – two points ahead of The Social Democrats’ Olaf Scholz.
The two percent margin is the smallest gap between the two parties since March 2017.
The Greens, led by chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock, are also very much in the race and were on 19 percent.
The lack of an outright winner could open the door for a coalition to take place – something deemed unthinkable a few months ago.
The ratings of Mr Laschet have dropped since he was seen laughing on a visit to a flood-stricken town and had to apologise.
Voters widely see Mr Scholz, finance minister in Ms Merkel’s coalition, as a safe pair of hands for the economy.
Some 29 percent of respondents told Forsa they would back Mr Scholz if there were a direct vote for Chancellor.
He is 17 points ahead of Mr Laschet and Ms Baerbock was on 15 percent of the vote.
The final weeks of Ms Merkel’s reign are set to be dominated by her response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan following the takeover by the Taliban.
Ms Merkel told party colleagues this week the immediate focus must be on evacuating up to 10,000 people from Afghanistan.
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Germany opened its borders six years ago to more than one million migrants, many of them Syrians, fleeing war and poverty.
The move drew support from the international community but has divided many in Germany – including her own party.
The outgoing Chancellor has been told to learn from the lessons of 2015 by the general secretary of the CDU.
Paul Ziemiak said: “For us, it is clear that 2015 must not be repeated.
“We won’t be able to solve the Afghanistan question through migration to Germany.”
The Greens’ candidate said Germany must take in at least 10,000 local staff from Afghanistan who have worked for the German military or other NATO countries in recent years.
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