Nightmare for Angela Merkel as support for party nosedives after historic election losses

AstraZeneca: Expert criticises Merkel and Macron over suspension

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Following their stinging defeat in local elections last weekend, backing for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their sister party the Bavarian CSU has dropped by four percentage points to 29 percent. The results from the Forsa survey were released on Wednesday after the party suffered historic defeats in two regional elections on Sunday.

There has been growing criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the rollout of the vaccination programme, which compared to the UK’s has been at a snail’s pace.

The inoculation process was hit by a further setback on Monday when Germany joined a growing number of European nations in halting the use of the AstraZeneca jab.

CDU leader Armin Laschet blamed the election losses on the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic.

He said the CDU and their junior partner in the right-left coalition, the Social Democrats, “must do better”.

The Social Democrats won 16 percent of support in the Forsa poll.

The CDU’s image has also been heavily damaged by the face mask procurement scandal.

The scandal has brought about the political downfall of multiple lawmakers.

Among them was CDU MP Nikolas Löbel whose company profited €250,000 (£214,512) in commissions for acting as an intermediary in mask contracts.

His colleague Georg Nüsslein from the CSU had earlier stepped down.

And the CDU’s Mark Hauptmann also resigned as an MP partly in connection with the damning scandal.

Firms in Germany have expressed concern over the scandal and also the delay in aid payments from the central government.

Deputy leader of the pro-business Free Democrats Wolfgang Kubicki said Mrs Merkel needed to sack ministers.

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He suggested Jens Spahn, the health minister, should be among the first to go.

He said: “There are only a few months until the election but changing Spahn as Health Minister would help establish new confidence in the state among the population.”

Mr Kubicki said he would also be in favour of removing Peter Altmaier, the economy minister, from his position.

Despite infections being on the rise in Germany, some lockdown restrictions are being rolled back in anticipation of summer.

A robust and reliable testing regime has yet to be implemented.

Mrs Merkel has said that all citizens will have been offered a vaccine by September 21 – five days before the federal election.

The government is sticking to its goal despite its decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca shot.

The suspension has raised concerns that Germans may be put off getting vaccinated.

Mr Spahn took to Facebook to insist that controls were in place.

He wrote “Our system works,” adding that incidents were reported, checked and, if necessary, action was taken.

He added: “That should actually strengthen confidence in vaccination.”

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