Merkel’s Falling Star Outshone by Party Protégé, Poll Shows

December 31, 2018 Updated: December 31, 2018

BERLIN—Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the new leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats, heads into 2019 more popular than Chancellor Angela Merkel, who supported her rise to the top of their party, an opinion poll showed on Dec. 30.

The survey by pollster Emnid for weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag showed 45 percent of 507 voters surveyed wanted Kramp-Karrenbauer to play a leading role among Germany’s top politicians in the coming year, ahead of Merkel, at 40 percent.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, the continuity candidate favored by the party elite, won a tight victory over the more conservative Friedrich Merz in a run-off vote earlier this month to decide the new leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

The victory put her in the pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor.

The Emnid poll showed 33 percent of those surveyed want Merz to have as much of an effect as possible in 2019.

Merz, who returned from a decade in the political wilderness to seek the CDU leadership, has said he’s ready to get back into politics full time and could even serve as a minister.

His narrow loss to Kramp-Karrenbauer, Merkel’s protege, highlighted deep divisions in the CDU that the party is eager to heal ahead of four regional elections next year.

Merkel, Germany’s chancellor for the past 13 years, decided in October to step down as party leader after the CDU hemorrhaged support in another regional vote.

A separate survey, by pollster YouGov, showed 43 percent of those questioned want Merkel to remain chancellor until the end of this legislative period in 2021, as she would like, with 38 percent wanting her to go early and 18 percent undecided.

Merkel’s fate partly depends on her coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), whose leaders are under pressure to pull out of the government.

SPD leader Andrea Nahles said she was “bitterly disappointed” by the coalition, which formed in March, but that it had performed better in the last two months.

“In the new generation, we can concentrate on the essentials and do good work,” Nahles told newspaper Welt am Sonntag.