Most French voters would re-elect German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, and believe she is “not the enemy of French interests,” according to a poll conducted by OpinionWay and published by right-leaning daily Le Figaro on Friday.
Despite a series of criticisms of her by French government ministers, and despite her public intervention against then-candidate François Hollande before last year’s presidential elections, fully 56 percent of French would re-elect Merkel, the poll found.
Her socialist opponent Peer Steinbrück, on the other hand, garnered just 25 percent support from the French.
In what could be interpreted as a further rebuff to the policies and administration of President François Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, almost two thirds of respondents said France should “draw inspiration” from Germany’s current economic policies.
Furthermore, a majority (53 percent) said another Merkel administration would be in French interests, as opposed to just 28 percent who believed France would be better off with the socialist Steinbrück.
According to Bruno Jeanbart from the polling firm OpinionWay, the survey shows that “the French people feel that Merkel is not the enemy of French interests.”
What stands out for French voters is the German Chancellor’s leadership qualities and “ability to prove her authority,” something 87 percent of those polled saw in her.
Similarly, 83 percent believe she does a good job at defending Germany’s interests abroad, and 81 percent found her capable of making difficult decisions.
Friday’s revealing survey comes after a series of barbs thrown at Merkel and her administration by French government politicians and ministers.
Indeed, on Thursday, French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoît Hamon launched a scathing attack on Germany’s current “unfair” wage policy that kept pay artificially low, and laid out “what [he wants] from the next German government.”
It’s not the first time Hamon himself has taken aim at Merkel. In April, he condemned the conservative CDU chancellor’s “failed” austerity policies.
In the spring, Merkel’s German rivals made an extraordinary public plea for France’s ruling Socialist party to stop “bashing” the Chancellor.
“Instead of pointing the finger at Mrs Merkel and ascribing her powers that she doesn't have, the French Socialists should look to their own failures to create a European project and find allies to support it," German Green Party MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit told Europe 1 radio.
In the same week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticises his Socialist party colleagues after a policy document which slammed Chancellor Merkel as “selfish” and called for a “confrontation” with Berlin over its insistence on austerity as a solution to the European debt crisis.
"We cannot hope to move things forward through denunciation, stigmatisation or division," Fabius said, adding that such attitudes were "a certain way to doom us from the start".
French critics of Merkel, however, will recall her public intervention against then-candidate François Hollande, and in support of then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, before France’s 2012 elections.
"We belong to the same political family,” Merkel said during a joint television interview with Sarkozy in February.
“He supported me and it is natural that I support him in his campaign," she added.
To read Friday's OpinionWay/Le Figaro/LCI survey in full (and in French), click here.
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