FRANKFURT (Reuters) - More German voters would like to see Friedrich Merz as head of the ruling center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) than current leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, protege of Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a survey published on Sunday.
Merz, championed by veteran conservative and former finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, is popular with CDU members who want to move its economic and migration policies further to the right.
Some 31% of respondents favored him as party leader and potential successor to Merkel when she steps down before the next election in 2021, against 19% for Kramp-Karrenbauer, in the Emnid poll carried out for Sunday’s Bild newspaper.
A year ago, Kramp-Karrenbauer, who beat Merz in a CDU leadership election last December, outscored Merz by 33% to 28% in the same survey.
With the economy slowing and Kramp-Karrenbauer not gaining the hoped-for traction, all is not going well for the CDU; last Sunday, it lost heavily to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in an election in the eastern state of Thuringia.
In the Emnid poll, 53% said the CDU’s position as a mainstream national party was in danger, likening its prospects to the demise of the once-formidable Social Democratic Party (SPD), the junior partner in Merkel’s coalition.
The Conservatives recorded 27% national support in Bild’s weekly survey, with the SPD on 16% and the AfD on 15%.
Merz plans to lay out his plans in a speech at the CDU party convention at the end of this month in Leipzig, his spokesman told Sunday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung paper.
The same story quoted Kramp-Karrenbauer as saying: “All contributions to the debate on the future of the country and of the CDU are highly welcome.”
CDU youth members are pushing for the party as a whole to vote on its chancellor candidate, rather than the party conference, FAS wrote. But it said major regional party branches were opposed.
Reporting by Vera Eckert: Editing by Kevin Liffey