German opposition leader Angela Merkel has moved ahead of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in opinion polls for the first time with a general election expected in September, a new poll showed on Friday.
He's got the personal charisma, but she's pulled ahead
To the question of whether they would prefer Merkel or Schröder as chancellor, 50 percent of the respondents opted for Merkel with Schröder receiving 44 percent, the poll for ZDF state TV showed.
Until now, Merkel has always trailed behind Schröder who is considered to be more charismatic.
The daughter of a Protestant pastor who grew up in the former East Germany is expected to be named the conservative Christian Democrats' candidate for chancellor, giving her a chance of becoming Germany's first woman leader.
The poll of 1,162 people showed Merkel had a clear lead in support among women, with 50 percent to 43 percent, but she was also ahead with men, 49 percent to 45 percent.
However the German leader is not directly elected by the voters, but by members of parliament after a general election.
Rout for Social Democrats
Schröder surprised the country with his call for an early election after his Social Democratic Party (SPD) lost heavily to the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in a state election in North Rhine-Westphalia last weekend.
In the week since that election, support for the SPD has slumped to 27 percent against 52 percent for the Christian Democrats, representing a rise of four percentage points.
According to the poll, 60 percent of voters believe that other parties should govern the country. That is similar to the mood seven years ago when Helmut Kohl lost his bid for a fifth term, when 64 percent of the electorate said it was time for a change.
However, in a similar poll carried out by TNS Infratest for Der Spiegel news magazine, 41 percent said they would vote for Schröder as opposed to 37 percent for Merkel. However, if parliamentary elections were held this weekend, Schröder's SPD would get only 29 percent of the vote. Merkel's Union bloc would get 47 percent.