Merkel set to chart poll battle

By Hui Min Neo — After Donald Trump’s shock victory, Francois Hollande’s decision not to seek re-election and populism on the rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is next up on the campaign podium to set out her strategy for winning in 2017 polls. When her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) holds its annual two-day congress from Tuesday, she will seek to rally members behind her bid for a fourth term as Germany’s leader. Merkel has admitted that the general election, likely to be held in September, will be “more difficult than any before it”.
Her opponents will seek to capitalise on resentment over her liberal refugee policy that brought one million asylum seekers to Europe’s biggest economy over the past two years.
Here is an outline of what the CDU congress in the western city of Essen is about.
What is expected to happen? The event opens on Tuesday with a speech by Merkel, who has led the CDU for 16 years after ousting long-time leader Helmut Kohl.
The 62-year-old is due to give a rundown on what she has achieved since their last congress, especially on the hot-button issue of reducing the mass influx of refugees and migrants.
Crucially, the party faithful will be keen to hear how she expects to take the party forward into the coming election year, which will pit the CDU against its current coalition partner the Social Democrats and several smaller parties.
Will anyone challenge her? There is no question Merkel will win a new two-year mandate to helm the CDU, but her score, and the length of the standing ovation, will be closely scrutinised for any signs of dissent.
At the last vote in 2014, she scored a North Korean-style 96.7 per cent, just below her record high of 97.9 per cent from 2012.
Several potential successors have been floated, but no one has caught the wider public’s imagination — among them Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen.
Most German voters still feel comfortable with “Mutti” (Mummy) — a survey which found 64 per cent welcomed her new candidacy against 33 per cent who did not.— AFP