Merkel Successor Hit by Fresh Poll Blow as Party Congress Looms

Iain Rogers

(Bloomberg) -- Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s chances of succeeding her mentor Angela Merkel as German chancellor took another hit Saturday as she scored poorly against potential rivals in a poll.

Less than a year after picking Kramp-Karrenbauer to head the CDU, consensus is building among party officials that she’s not suited for the top job, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg earlier this week. The Christian Democrats, who also saw dwindling support in Saturday’s survey, face the prospect of an open power struggle at the party’s national convention starting on Nov. 22 in Leipzig.

The party lost two percentage points from the previous week to reach 26% support in the latest Forsa poll for RTL/n-tv, with the Greens gaining one point to 21%. The embattled Social Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partners, remained stuck on 13%, level with the far-right AfD party.

Only 13% said they backed Kramp-Karrenbauer for chancellor in a head-to-head with Social Democrat Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who scored 34%. Against Greens co-leader Robert Habeck, she scored 14% to his 31%.

While Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is also defense minister, was popular in her home state of Saarland, she has struggled to connect with voters on the national stage.

Basic Pension

Originally, the CDU planned to nominate its chancellor candidate next year ahead of the election scheduled for late 2021. But if the Social Democrats decide to leave the coalition earlier, the party may be forced to pick a candidate by the end of 2019.

In an Emnid survey last week over who would be the best CDU candidate, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s support was 19% compared with 31% for Friedrich Merz, who narrowly lost to her in the CDU leadership vote last December.

Coalition negotiations on a basic pension are a key test of relations and leaders are due to meet Sunday in Berlin to try and hammer out a deal. If the SPD fails to push through its plan for minimum retirement benefits, it could hasten the government’s collapse.

Forsa polled 2,501 people Nov. 4-8 and the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 points.

To contact the reporter on this story: Iain Rogers in Berlin at irogers11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Marion Dakers, Namitha Jagadeesh

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