BERLIN, March 5 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a narrow lead of 1 percent compared with her rival Martin Schulz in the federal elections in September, according to a poll of the opinion research institute Emnid released on Sunday.
The result, published in the German newspaper Bild, came after a Infratest dimap's poll put the chance of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) ahead of Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) on Feb. 23.
This marked the first time in a decade that an opposition party has led the governing party in a poll.
Both polling institutes asked at least 1,000 eligible voters "if there is a general election next Sunday, which party would you vote for?"
The 61-year-old SPD candidate Schulz, president of the European Parliament from 2012 till this year, has been hopeful to become the first German chancellor from his party in 15 years.
Since his nomination on Jan. 24 as the SPD candidate in the federal elections, the party's nominal share of the vote has seen a 12-percent rise up from 20 percent, which the German media said should attribute to the "Schulz-factor."
The SPD, in a governing coalition with Merkel's CDU since 2013, has struggled to regain popularity following the unpopularity of the labor market reforms among voters. Its introduction of an 8.5-euro minimum wage in 2015 has not helped improve its electorial performance either.
The current party leader Sigmar Gabriel agreed in January to step down before September elections considering the growing support for Schulz.
However, Reinhard Schlinkert, founder and president of Infratest dimap, told Xinhua that "elections will be in September. At the moment, 36 percent of voters are still undecided. Let's wait and see."
MERKEL'S "ACHILLES' HEEL"
For her part, Merkel has been facing the most severe electoral challenge since taking office in November 2005. Her refugee policy has sparked stern criticism in particular from the anti-EU and anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
Since 2015, the female leader has permitted the entrance of 1.5 million refugees, the majority of whom had fled the conflict in Syria.
The consequence of the decision, reinforced by the escalating terrorism-related attacks and mounting public fear, has gained the AfD significant popular support by attacking Merkel's policy.
Nevertheless, the Schulz-factor has helped shift support from the AfD to the SPD, as the former's 15 percent vote share in January has fallen to 11 percent in the Feb. 23 poll and 10 percent in the March 5 poll.
CHALLENGE AHEAD FOR NEW CHANCELLOR
The new German chancellor must deal with the new U.S. administration which has accused Germany of taking advantage of a "grossly undervalued euro" to boost its exports. U.S. President Donald Trump also threatened to retaliate with tariffs on German goods.
Merkel said she will seek common ground with Trump "wherever possible," but someone would be reminded not to resort to protectionism, without specifically mentioning Trump.
Whereas Schulz, before the U.S. election, told the German news magazine Spiegel that "Donald Trump is a problem for the entire world." He also called the AfD "a disgrace to the Federal Republic."
With regard to Brexit, both Merkel and Schulz have made it clear that there can be no question of free access to the single market without the free movement of people, in contradiction to the claims of British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Schultz's supporters have adopted the campaign slogan "Jetzt ist Schulz," which literally means "it's time for Schulz."
But there is a pun on the German word schluss, so the slogan could also mean "stop that now," which the German media said has delivered a stern message to his long-serving female rival for the chancellorship.