Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Party Leading Polls Ahead of September Election

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party is leading in polls ahead of Germany's September 26 election, the Associated Press reported.

Merkel, who is 66 and aligned with Germany's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, is nearing the end of her 16 years of leadership and is heading to the U.S. for a meeting with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other officials. Although the CDU party is heading the polls, the Greens party and Social Democrats hope to secure one of their own for Germany's future leadership.

Despite the three parties' differences in policies, all support a trans-Atlantic relationship with the U.S.

The new leader of the center-right CDU party is Armin Laschet. The Social Democrats is a center-left party and the Greens are environmentalists.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party is leading in the polls ahead of the September 26 national election. Above, Merkel attends the first in a series of online dialogues titled "The Chancellor in Conversation" at the Chancellery on July 14, 2021, in Berlin. Christian Lietzmann/Pool / Getty Images

Merkel left Wednesday for Washington on what is likely to be her last official visit, carrying a bag full of issues to discuss with Biden and an overarching message for Berlin's close ally: You've got a friend.

The veteran German leader is expected to discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the rise of China and a Russian gas pipeline that Washington opposes during her meetings Thursday with Biden, Harris and other senior U.S. officials.

"In part this is a farewell visit, in part she is signaling continuity and stability in the German-U.S. relationship," said Johannes Timm, a senior fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a think tank in Berlin.

Many officials in Washington and elsewhere are wondering what course Germany might take after the next election and the long-time chancellor will seek to reassure them that there won't be a huge shift, he said.

One sour note that preceded and outlasted the Trump era of diplomatic discord with Washington has been the thorny issue of a new pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany.

The United States has long argued that the Nord Stream 2 project threatens European energy security and harms allies in Eastern Europe. But Biden recently waived looming sanctions against German entities involved in the project, signaling a possible compromise may be found.

Merkel sought this week to dampen expectations for an imminent breakthrough, but she is likely to want to resolve the issue before leaving office. "It weights on German-U.S. relations and German-EU relations," said Timm.

While German officials have been unusually coy about which topics will be discussed during the trip, Merkel's spokesman confirmed Wednesday that China will come up.

"That can be said with relative certainty," Steffen Seibert told reporters. "This also played an important role at the G-7 summit, where the chancellor and the American president last met."

Germany has strong trade ties with China but has also been critical of Beijing's human rights record. Merkel is keen to avoid a situation in which Germany, or the European Union, might be forced to choose sides between China and the United States.

Merkel, a trained scientist, has insisted on the need to cooperate with China on global issues such as combating climate change and tackling the coronavirus pandemic, even while Biden's predecessor Donald Trump was accusing Beijing of having started it.

Meanwhile, Merkel has made clear she doesn't support Biden's idea of suspending patents to help boost the global rollout of vaccines, arguing that this wouldn't be effective and could harm future scientific research.

Along with the substance, there will be plenty of ceremony during the one-day visit: Merkel will receive an honorary doctorate—her 18th—from Johns Hopkins University, and she and her husband, chemist Joachim Sauer, will dine with the first family at the White House.

Merkel's trip may not be her last, either. She said that growing up in East Germany she dreamed of being able to travel to America on her retirement, when the communist bloc tended to relax some of the restrictions on its citizens.

So far, Merkel has announced no plans for her time after office.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on July 14, 2021. Annegret Hilse/Pool via AP