Merkel in pole position to win elections in September

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Incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel is in pole position to win next month’s German election, having seen her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) top polls for the third consecutive week, while the popularity of her main Social Democrat rivals has plummeted to one of its lowest pre-election levels since the Second World War.

According to the latest weekly Forsa poll for Stern magazine and RTL television, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) may win enough votes in the September 27 election to form a government.

Even if support for the CDU/CSU fell one percentage point to 37%, the bloc is way ahead of Merkel’s coalition partner and main election rival Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), which stands at 22%. 

Support for the liberal FDP remained unchanged at 13% as did the Green Party, the SPD’s preferred partner, which stayed at 12%, the poll showed. 

Steinmeier suffered a blow last month, when a government minister’s limousine was stolen during a vacation in Southern Europe. Social Democrat Health Minister Ulla Schmidt had taken her official limousine and chauffeur on holiday in Spain, leading the SPD to omit the politician from its election campaign following public uproar. 

In the 2005 federal elections, the SPD took 34.2% of the vote, while the CDU won 27.8%, the CSU 7.4%, the Greens 8.1%, the Left party 8.7% and the Free Democratic Party 9.8%. Since then, Germany has been ruled by a “grand coalition” regrouping the CDU, CSU and SPD. 

Meanwhile, German politicians are trying hard to jump-start a US-style electoral campaign, embracing the Internet and experimenting with more informal public meetings. 

But strategists say the new media formats Obama used so successfully in his bid for the presidency have exposed the weaknesses of Germany’s leading politicians, including a lack of charisma and clear political message. “

After seeing Obama, German parties have discovered the Internet but they forget that it can’t make up for everything else,” said Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa polling group in an interview with Reuters. 

“Obama didn’t win because of the Internet. He won because he was Obama and had a clear message. Neither Chancellor Angela Merkel nor her Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier is an Obama,” he added. 

Despite Merkel topping the Forbes magazine’s list of powerful women for the fourth consecutive year, she does not seem to have galvanized young web-savvy voters. 

Both candidates are using blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter to woo voters and have appeared on U.S-style television shows, but neither party have scored points with the new approach, said experts. 

The scenario might change as elections draw near and the two candidates hold a face off in a TV debate next month. 

(EURACTIV Germany contributed to this article)

Germany's federal elections for the renewal of the parliament, the Bundestag, will take place on 27 September, crowning what Germans call a "superwahljahr" (super election year) with more than a dozen local, state and federal polls. 

More than 60 million people will be eligible to vote, the largest electorate in Europe. 

Half of the seats in the Parliament are directly elected, the rest via party lists using proportional representation. 

The party or coalition of parties with most seats elects the Chancellor, for a four-year mandate. 

For the first time this year, the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will send a team of observers, after a row over the exclusion of smaller parties. 

Political parties must obtain at least 5 per cent of the vote under a post-war law designed to prevent extremists from coming to power. 

Turnout in general elections is usually high. In the 2005 Bundestag elections, 77.7% of the electorate cast the ballot. 

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