Saturday

21st Sep 2019

Germans head to the polls in close election

  • Merkel's challenger Peer Steinbrueck tries to mobilise people to vote (Photo: Valentina Pop)

"We can do this. Together we can turn the tide. Sunday can be the last day of Angela Merkel's coalition," a confident Peer Steinbrueck told cheering crowds in his last big rally on Thursday (19 September) in Berlin.

According to the latest poll published by the public tv station ZDF, Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and her Liberal coalition partner are only one percent ahead of the Social Democrats, Greens and the leftist Linke party.

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The survey places Merkel's coalition at 45.5 percent, while the opposition taken altogether would get 44.5 percent.

The Christian Democrats would be the largest party, according to the poll, with 40 percent of the vote. This would give Merkel the right to seek coalition talks after the elections, her preferred partner being the liberal Free Democratic Party which the latest poll suggests will barely make it into the parliament, at 5.5 percent.

As for the Social Democrats, they are now polling at 27 percent, a one-point increase compared to previous surveys. Their preferred partners, the Greens, are now down at nine percent, having lost two points after a revived controversy surrounding their lead candidate, Juergen Trittin. Back in the early days of the Green Party, Trittin had been in favour of legalising sex with minors, a position he has since abandoned and "regretted."

The anti-capitalist party Die Linke has also seen an increase of 0.5 points, now polling at 8.5 percent. Steinbrueck and the Greens are excluding a coalition with the leftist party, because of its Communist past in former East Germany. But if the Liberals don't make the five-percent threshold to enter the Bundestag, one scenario could be a minority Social-Green government with tacit support of the Linke.

The most stable government and most likely scenario remains a coalition between Merkel's Christian-Democrats and the Social-Democrats. Steinbrueck has rejected this idea, but if his party does not win the elections, two other party leaders, Sigmar Gabriel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will be the ones carrying out coalition talks.

According to the ZDF poll, 58 percent still want Merkel as chancellor, while only 32 percent favour Steinbrueck.

The ZDF poll also shows the anti-euro discourse of the Alternative fuer Deutschland is gaining traction. The party is still not tipped to enter the parliament, but has grown to four percent - largely by picking up disgruntled Christian Democrats and Liberals.

A small event on Wendesday in the northern part of Berlin gatered a few dozen people for an imaginary debate between AfD frontman Joachim Starbatty, an economics professor arguing for the break-up of the eurozone, and a virtual Angela Merkel, as shown in videos and interviews which were projected on a stage.

As surveys carried out by Forsa, another pollster, have shown, most of the people in the audience were elderly men who used to vote for the Christian Democrats or Liberals. They would still prefer Merkel to become chancellor, but want to give her coalition a "message" about their concerns that Germany is paying too much for rescuing the euro.

Analysis

German elections: Little change for EU

Merkel seems set to win a third mandate on Sunday. But whatever the outcome, Germany's stance in Europe is unlikely to see a dramatic shift.

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

EU divided on how to protect rule of law

Poland and Hungary have argued that rule of law is purely a domestic matter and the EU should respect legal traditions, but Dutch foreign minister warned backsliding was a worry for all.

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