This will be my hardest election yet, admits Angela Merkel, as her party dives in polls
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, admitted she was facing the toughest election campaign of her career on Monday, as a shock opinion poll found her party trailing for the first time in almost seven years.
Martin Schulz, the former European parliament president and outspoken EU critic, is now leading the race to be Germany’s next leader, according to the poll for Bild newspaper.
His centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) came first with 31 per cent, ahead of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) on 30 per cent.
The far-Right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were in the third place with 12 per cent.
It is the first time the CDU has been beaten into second place since 2010.
“This will be the hardest election campaign I have ever fought,” Mrs Merkel told a press conference in Munich.
“We have quite a fight on our hands, and we have plenty of work ahead of us.”
Mr Schulz has now emerged as the most serious challenger Mrs Merkel has faced in more than a decade in power.The SPD has seen its support surge by a dramatic ten points in just two weeks since he took over as party leader following the resignation of Sigmar Gabriel.
In a sign of the panic now gripping Mrs Merkel’s camp, one of the harshest critics of her refugee policy on Monday agreed to set aside his differences with the chancellor and work towards her re-election.
Horst Seehofer, the leader of Mrs Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), was threatening to pull out of an electoral alliance with Mrs Merkel unless she agreed to a limit on the number of refugees allowed into Germany.