German Greens candidate explains expenses slip up as ratings slip

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Co-leader of Germany's Green party and designated candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock leaves after an interview, in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Annalena Baerbock, chancellor candidate for Germany's ecologist Greens, sought on Friday to draw a line under an expenses scandal that has coincided with a dip in her popularity.

Since naming Baerbock last month as their candidate, opinion polls have shown the Greens overtaking the conservative alliance of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who plans to step down after September's federal election.

But a survey published on Friday showed a dip in Baerbock's personal popularity, coinciding with news reports that she failed to declare to officials in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, a Christmas bonus paid to her by her party.

"I wasn't aware at the time that I had to declare this Christmas money to the Bundestag administration too," she told reporters.

"I am annoyed with myself because this was a mistake, and when I realised it I immediately registered it retrospectively," she said, stressing the importance of transparency for winning voters' trust.

Her statement to reporters came after newspapers leapt on her Baerbock's late declaration of the money to the Bundestag, which the Handelsblatt business daily said put the Greens on the defensive.

"Annalena Baerbock: Is the hype over?" asked weekly Die Zeit.

Baerbock promised a "new start" when the Greens named her last month as their chancellor candidate, capturing voters' attention.

A survey by pollster Forschungsgruppe Wahlen for broadcaster ZDF published on Friday showed that on a scale of +5 to -5, Baerbock's popularity fell by 0.5 points to 0.5 from two weeks ago.

Asked whether they would prefer Baerbock or conservative Armin Laschet as chancellor, 46% opted for Laschet and 42% for Baerbock. But the poll of 1,229 voters conducted from May 18-20 put support for the Greens at 25%, ahead of the conservatives on 24%.

Baerbock made the running in a first debate on Thursday with Laschet and Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrats' (SPD) chancellor candidate.

(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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