- After a well-managed first epidemic wave, Angela Merkel and her party, the CDU, had soared in the polls. The backlash is harsh after a catastrophic second wave.
- The fall in the polls could be confirmed at the ballot box in two test regional elections taking place this Sunday, six months before the general elections.
- The CDU has experienced an unprecedented turnaround since 2005, thinks specialist Hélène Miard-Delacroix.
In six months, Angela Merkel will bow out after almost sixteen years in the German Chancellery. Since 2005, she and her Christian Democratic Party (CDU) have always emerged strengthened from the many crises they have experienced. Not this time: after a year of the coronavirus pandemic, the party is at its lowest in the polls, even below its level in the last general election in 2017.
This Sunday, regional elections in the South-East (Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate), in two landers that it does not lead, should confirm the decline of the CDU. If these elections also obey local logic, the results will be analyzed closely six months before the general elections and in the midst of a corruption scandal. 20 Minutes takes stock of the state in which the main German government party finds itself with the professor at Sorbonne University, specialist in Germany, Hélène Miard-Delacroix.
How can the severe drop in the CDU be explained in the polls?
In recent weeks the CDU has been really shaken by the revelation of completely dishonorable bribery cases by a few members of its ranks. They took advantage of their connections to pocket commissions from mask orders last year. It really is the worst possible business at the worst possible time. Because it resonates with the impression that has dominated since the beginning of January that the government is sailing on sight in the midst of the cacophony of the health crisis and gives the impression of not being in control as well as in the first wave in 2020.
The Germans are in a sobering sentence compared to the illusion they had in 2020 of being the world champions in the management of the health crisis, with a relative arrogance. There, since the second wave, Germany has found itself more affected and more confined than its neighbors. As a result, the main party in power, the CDU, has a degraded image.
The CDU has been in power for sixteen years with Angela Merkel, and downs she has known others. This time, is it more serious?
There is a kind of reversal with what has happened since 2005. The Chancellor and the Chancellor’s party, in all the coalitions they have led, had taken advantage of what was successful. This was particularly the case in the large coalitions with the Social Democrats of the SPD. All the progress made (minimum wage, help for retired housewives, nursery places, marriage for all…) from the left has been credited to the CDU.
There, on the contrary, one has the impression that it does not work well, that the machine seizes up, and it is put at the debit of the CDU. Since 2005 there has been the financial crisis, the Greek crisis, the migration crisis … There has been a lot of turmoil but each time Angela Merkel has succeeded in embodying a figure of stability: in crises she had the image of the captain in the storm, which keeps a cool head, reassuring, without emotion, which protects the Germans … His departure risks wavering the attachment or loyalty to the CDU.
The party has a new leader but does not yet have a candidate for the elections. It will be played between Armin Laschet, the president of the CDU, and Markus Söder, the president of the Land of Bavaria, of the CSU. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
The candidate is not nominated because they had decided to wait for the elections of this Sunday to see who could have the most chances. The two have a different profile: depending on whether one chooses one or the other, the message sent to voters will not be the same. Markus Söder has a stronger, more interventionist personality. His verb is more marked, it is more polarizing. Armin Laschet is more Rhenish, more flexible, more like Merkel. It is more enveloping, seeks more compromises. Markus Söder, who is from CSU (Social Christians of Bavaria) has a problem is that the two times the CDU-CSU coalition was led by a CSU candidate, it lost the elections. The equation is complex.
The CDU has also benefited a lot from competition not necessarily up to Angela Merkel. In 2021 do candidates from other parties finally represent a serious threat?
Hard to say. The SPD, which is after all the other big German party even if it has completely lost momentum for the past fifteen years, is led by the current Minister of Finance, Olaf Scholz, who is not at all charismatic. I don’t feel like he’s a threatening personality for the CDU. The Greens, who are in second place in the polls, have not yet named their head of the list. The party has always had a dual leadership with a man and a woman but for the moment it is not known which of the two will be the candidate for the chancellery. But let us not forget that Germany is a parliamentary democracy dominated by proportional voting: even if the incarnation counts, we do not vote for one person but for a party.