Merkel Walks on Thin Ice Ahead of Election

Although the German Federal elections take place in September, incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel’s current position as the election’s front-runner has already become tenuous. Recent polls show her leading competitor polling above her by as much as six points. In the future, Merkel must walk ever more carefully, if she hopes to regain a strong lead for not only herself but also for her party -- the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Germany’s center-right party. Though the sister parties had a recent falling out over the refugee crisis, Chancellor Merkel and Horst Seehofer, head of the CDU in Bavaria, met from February 5th to 6th in Munich to reconfirm their commitment to the historic union of shared values, reports Der Spiegel. After the conference, Merkel remarked, “Commonality is always a valuable commodity.”

Notwithstanding the Union’s struggles, Merkel and the CDU must face a newly emboldened Social Democratic Party (SPD) with their newly  elected Martin Schulz, former European Parliament President, as their candidate for the chancellorship. According to Deutsche Welle, all major polls now show Martin Schulz as the preferred candidate for Chancellor, while the SPD and CDU/CSU remain in stiff competition with about 30 percent each.

Simultaneously, both major parties must confront the rise of the populist right. According to DW, the Alternative für Deutschland (an extreme right party) now garners 10 percent of the popular vote, ahead of the eight percent of both the Greens and the Left parties.

As Merkel looked at her fourth campaign, she explained, “This election is [already] the hardest I have ever experienced.” For now, it seems that Germany’s two major parties can overcome the populist wave that has decimated other Western democracies.