It’s Not You, It’s Us: Germans Ready to Let Merkel Go

Germans approve of Angela Merkel’s job performance, but they are ready for someone else.

David Cameron Angela Merkel
British prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel answer questions from reporters in Berlin, May 29, 2015 (10 Downing Street/Arron Hoare)

Twelve years into the Merkel era, Germans are ready for a change.

A Politbarometer poll conducted for ZDF television found that one in two voters want Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat, to become chancellor after the election in September.

38 percent prefer Angela Merkel to stay.

Good job

It’s not that Germans are unhappy with Merkel. 71 percent believe she is doing well against 24 percent who disapprove of her.

Many of the disapprovers support the far-right Alternative for Germany. They haven’t forgiven Merkel for letting in more than one million asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016.

There is barely a naysayer among Merkel’s own Christian Democrats. 94 percent approve of her job performance.

Merkel is surprisingly popular among Green party voters: 78 percent approve of her chancellorship. Two in three Social Democrats do too.

Another grand coalition

Before Schulz became the Social Democratic candidate in January, the expectation was that Merkel would win reelection and try to form a coalition government with the Greens.

That now seems unlikely. The Christian Democrats are still polling in first place, but the Social Democrats have climbed up in the polls from around 20 percent last year to almost 30 percent today. The support has come from moderate Christian Democrats on the right and Green party voters on the left, as a result of which those two parties would fall short of a majority between them.

A left-wing coalition of Social Democrats, Green and The Left might muster a majority, but only just. The Social Democrats would risk alienating centrist voters if they made a pact with The Left for the first time. It is strongly anticapitalist and still wants Germany to leave NATO.

The liberal Free Democrats are expected to return to parliament, but they wouldn’t have the numbers either to get the Christian Democrats to a majority.

Which means another grand coalition is the likeliest outcome. The question is who will lead it: Merkel or Schulz?