Merkel's conservatives make big poll gains in midst of coronavirus crisis

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc has won support during the coronavirus crisis, hitting its highest level in nearly three years, a poll showed on Thursday.

Merkel’s cautious approach during the emergency appears to have reaped rewards, as a relatively early shutdown of schools, many factories and shops has had some effect and Europe’s biggest economy has announced small steps towards a relaxation.

The DeutschlandTrend poll for ARD television put Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister party on 38%, up 3 points from two weeks ago and its highest level since August 2017, just before the last federal election.

The environmentalist Greens were second on 19% but lost 3 points and fell below 20% for the first time in just over a year. Having profited from climate fears in the last 18 months, the party has sunk into the background in the pandemic.

The Social Democrats (SPD), who share power in Merkel’s right-left coalition, were up 1 point at 17% while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the official parliamentary opposition, was down 1 point at 9%.

Merkel’s CDU has postponed a leadership contest due to the coronavirus and is now unlikely to pick a new chair before December, outgoing chair Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said this week.

The new CDU leader will be a favorite to stand as chancellor in the next federal election, due by Oct. 2021, as Merkel has said she will not seek a fifth term. However, the CSU also has a say and it may prefer to put forward their leader, Markus Soeder, as the chancellor candidate.

A poll last month showed that Soeder, who has introduced tough measures to limit social contact in his state during the pandemic, was Germany’s most popular politician, an unusual situation for a Bavarian.

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