German Chancellor Angela Merkel trails Social Democrat Martin Schulz by 16 percentage points in a poll released Thursday.
Schulz would receive 50 percent of the votes if Germans got to pick a new chancellor this weekend. Merkel — who is seeking a fourth term after opening the borders to more than one million refugees — received support from 34 percent.
The good news for Merkel is that her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) remains the largest party with 34 percent support, down three from January. The Social Democrats gained eight points and is now within striking distance at 28 percent — just six behind CDU.
Merkel’s hopes of securing a fourth term as chancellor in September rely on CDU remaining the largest party. The chancellor is usually selected from the most popular party after a parliamentary vote.
Schulz was nominated as the Social Democratic candidate less than a week ago and has already given the party a huge boost. He is returning to German politics after 23 years in the European Parliament — where he most recently served as president.
“We are going to make the elections this year a real thrill,” Schulz said after getting nominated Sunday. “Our party, the SPD, has the ambition to become the strongest political force in the next election. And I have the ambition to become the next chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,”
Volker Kauder, CDU’s group leader in the German parliament, recently told Deutsche Welle that Schulz’s emergence is natural “when someone new steps onto the stage.”
Populist party Alternative for Germany dropped three points but remains the third-largest party with 12 percent.
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