Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Party (CSU) saw its lead against the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) narrow, according to opinion polls on Sunday (5 February). With just four percentage points separating the two, SPD saw its support reach a four-year high.

With Germany's federal election due to take place in September, the SPD's chancellorship candidate Martin Schulz appears to have breathed new life into the party. Schulz, a former European Parliament president, was nominated a week ago to replace Sigmar Gabriel as SPD party chair.

Meanwhile, support for Merkel's alliance fell to 33%, its lowest since September 2013. The newly released figures indicate there may be some mileage in Schulz's assertion that he can heal some of the "deep divisions" within Germany.

Speaking of the poll result on Sunday, Torsten Schneider-Haase of Emnid, the pollster responsible for the new figures, told German newspaper Bild: "Such a strong shift in party preferences within a week is a one-off. Martin Schulz is managing above all to win back former SPD voters and to appeal to them emotionally."

Merkel's dip in popularity could in part be attributed to the rise in popularity of right-wing groups in Germany in response to the Chancellor's open-door policy amid Europe's migrant crisis. In August last year, another Emnid poll found that just 50% of those polled supported Merkel running for a fourth term.

However, anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) retained the same level of support at 11% of the poll of 2,233 voters conducted between 26 January and 2 February. Support for the Green Party and for far-left Linke fell by 2% to 8% each.

The election is one of several key votes to take place in Europe this year, with France also heading to the polling booths for the first of two rounds in April. On Saturday, far-right Front National candidate Marine Le Pen set out her party's manifesto for the presidential election.

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel's polling rating dropped to its lowest since September 2013. Odd Andersen/AFP