Angela Merkel races ahead in polls with six weeks to go

Challenge from lefts new savior Martin Schulz fades among voters content with economic success

Not long ago, he was seen as a bearer of hope , not just for his own party, Germanys Social Democrat, but for the whole of the embattled European left. He was nicknamed Sankt Martin, the man who had the health risks to topple Angela Merkel from her throne after nearly 12 years and bring a wave of fresh ideas that would reinvigorate a political scenery turned staid by her long-term presence.

Martin Schulz, 61, was even being appeared to closely by Jeremy Corbyns consultants at a time when the Labour leader was struggling to mobilise support. They marvelled at how he had explosion on to Berlins political stage and was inspiring a new generation of young voters, while encouraging those who had abandoned the party to return in their thousands.

Now, with six weeks to go until Germans go to the polls, Schulz is trailing Merkel miserably and already appears to be determining for a seat on the Bundestag opposition benches. The SPD candidate is toiling hard, but no one is taking any notice, wrote resulting commentator Heribert Prantl in an editorial for the Sddeutsche Zeitung .

The polls demonstrate Schulzs SPD trailing Merkels CDU/ CSU alliance by about 14%, having been almost neck-and-neck only a few months ago. Polling analysts are not so much blaming Schulzs campaign, which has insured him off on an energetic tour across Germany at the same time as Merkel has been blithely relaxing in the South Tyrol, but on the strength of his opponents brand, the feeling of reliability she exudes, and the continuity she will offer a Germany that is on an economic high.

The trust she inspires was reinforced last week by pictures of Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, wearing the same outfits they have worn for many years in a row, while they always visit the same hotel and stay in the same room.

Prantl tells the decision to vote for Merkel is the equivalent of a gambling who is happy to break even. People are still is in compliance with being in the black with Merkel, tells Prantl, because in a world that is topsy-turvy and being was governed by so many crazy people, theyd quite like to keep her, simply because shes not mad, but capable and experienced.

When Schulz arrived in Berlin, having spent the previous two decades on the European political scene, latterly as president of the European parliament, he attracted thousands of new and former recruits to the SPD, after two decades in which it had haemorrhaged subsistence. The partys standing in the polls rose by 10 percentage points. He went on to receive a record 100% of the votes to become the party leader. The SPDs euphoria was expressed in T-shirts emblazoned with his bespectacled, bearded face, along with the slogan Time for Martin and red balloons published with the words A breath of fresh air. He was greeted with shriekings and cheers when he entered rooms full of SPD members.

Martin
Martin Schulz has promised to address growing inequality. Photograph: Thomas Lohnes/ Getty Images

But the Schulz effekt, as it was called, demonstrated short-lived. The party suffered setbacks in regional elections, and despite Schulz expressing the importance of social justice Gerechtigkeit his campaign buzzword, at a time of a widening rich-poor divide, the euphoria ebbed amid objections there was little substance in his plans for Germany.

The traditional base of the SPD is still smarting over the labour reforms introduced by the last SPD chancellor, Gerhard Schrder, which were key to Germanys economic recovery and its ability to cast off the label sick human of Europe.

Schulz has promised to address the growing inequality for which Schrder is blamed. The SPD, as junior partner in Merkels grand coalition for the past four years, is credited with having pushed through legislation on a minimum wages. But the poorest 20% of Germans have yet to see better living criteria. On newspaper matters of employment statistics appear good, with Germany on track to have zero unemployment in the next three years. But increasing numbers of employees are in poorly paid, unstable run. Many voters are therefore said to be deciding on the steady pair of hands, rather than taking a risk, or choosing not to vote at all.

Alexander Wallasch is one of many commentators conveying unease about the dominance of Merkel, pointing out the particular irony that she is now as popular as she was before the refugee crisis two summers ago, when her controversial decision to open Germanys doors led many to predict she would be forced out of office.

What is wrong with German voters? Wallasch asked in the liberal conservative online magazine Tichys Einblick. How can it be that the CDU with Angela Merkel at the helm is currently enjoying 40% support? Is it just a lack of alternatives? Or, he goes so far as to suggest, a type of Stockholm syndrome referring to the condition whereby a victim in a hostage-taking develops impressions of trust or affection towards their captor.

Even more extraordinary is Merkels popularity among young people, in particular first-time voters , none of whom are likely to remember a Germany when Merkel was not in the “drivers seat”. An opinion poll by Forsa in June showed that 57% of those aged 18 to 21 would support Merkel as chancellor, compared with 53% of all voters. By contrast, Schulzs backing from the same age group was merely 21%.

But headlines have been dominated by the astound revelation last week that Merkel, back from her Tyrolean hiking tour, had suffered a 10 -point slide in her personal popularity, down to 59%. A political analyst, Heiko Funke, blamed her relaxed position towards the election campaign, fallout from the anti-G2 0 protests in Hamburg last month, a knife attack by an Islamist, and the scandal over diesel autoes. The voters would have liked to have seen more involvement by Merkel, according to political scientist Carsten Koschmieder of Berlins Otto-Suhr-Institut for political science.

Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political analyst from Duisburg, told despite Merkel and the CDUs strong poll showing it would be a mistake to position the election on 24 September as a foregone conclusion. As weve already seen, within just a few days or weeks problematic situations can start, he told. Moments of crisis can quickly cause broad sections of voters to change their minds at the last minute.

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