Crisis management boosts Merkel's conservatives in poll

·2 min read

BERLIN, March 26 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc has risen in public opinion thanks to the government's management of the coronavirus crisis, with a poll on Thursday putting it at the highest level since a 2017 federal election.

The Forsa poll for RTL put Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), who are in the middle of a leadership contest, and their Bavarian sister party the CSU up 4 points from last week at 36% compared with 32.9% in the 2017 election.

Their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners were up 1 point at 16% while the Greens, who had soared in polls in the last year due to climate fears, were down 3 points at 17%.

"The corona crisis has led to a kind of renaissance at least for the two main traditional parties," said Forsa chief Manfred Guellner, who cited the ruling parties' focus on solving the virus problem and putting internal disputes behind them.

The poll showed that 40% of Germans were convinced that the conservative bloc was best-placed to deal with the country's current problems. That is a 12-point rise from a week ago.

With 36,508 confirmed cases and 198 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Germany has largely shut down, and the pandemic is likely to push the economy into recession.

Merkel's government has announced a range of measures to cushion the blow, including a 750 billion euro stimulus package, and has even suspended a constitutionally enshrined debt brake to help fund it.

After nearly 15 years leading Europe's biggest economy, Merkel has said she will not stand for a fifth term in an election due by October 2021.

Her protege Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said last month she would stand down as head of the CDU, triggering a leadership contest.

The winner will be in a strong position to run as chancellor in the federal election. But Bavaria's CSU must give its consent, and polls show that its leader Markus Soeder has also gained in popularity during the virus crisis. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Hugh Lawson)