German election updates
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Angela Merkel made her strongest intervention yet in the German election campaign, using what may be her last speech in the Bundestag to implore voters to choose Armin Laschet and warn of the dangers of a leftwing government for Germany.
Merkel said Germans faced a choice between a coalition made up of the Social Democrats, Greens and the hard-left Linke party and a government led by Armin Laschet, the candidate of her centre-right CDU/CSU, “a moderate government which will lead our country into the future”.
The unusually partisan intervention by Merkel, who is standing down this year after 16 years as chancellor, reflects the increasing nervousness in the centre-right camp at the commanding poll lead established by the Social Democrats in recent weeks. A new poll by Forsa for RTL/ntv-Trendbarometer put the SPD on 25 per cent, the CDU/CSU on 19 per cent and the Greens on 17 per cent ahead of the September 26 vote.
Until recently, Merkel, who continues to enjoy high approval ratings, preferred to stay out of the campaign. But in recent days, as her party’s position in the polls has deteriorated, she has become more active, publicly praising the beleaguered Laschet and lashing out at his main rival, finance minister and SPD chancellor-candidate Olaf Scholz.
Merkel rarely criticises Scholz publicly, but on Tuesday she was in full attack mode, slamming his suggestion at a recent campaign event that people who had been vaccinated were “guinea pigs”. “None of us are guinea pigs, neither Olaf Scholz nor I,” she said. Authorities would not succeed in increasing vaccination rates using “such distorted images”.
But her open campaigning for the CDU/CSU and for Laschet’s candidacy in a Bundestag debate about the state of the nation was controversial, and at times she was drowned out by heckling from MPs.
“My goodness, what a fuss!” she retorted. “I’ve been a member of the German Bundestag for more than 30 years and where should we discuss such issues if not here? It is the heart of our democracy.”
Polls indicate that Scholz might emerge as winner of the election, with an abundance of coalition options. He could team up with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, or with the Greens and the Linke party — forming a so-called “red-red-green” alliance.
But Die Linke could prove difficult partners. The party, which has its roots in the former East German Communist party, wants to disband the Nato military alliance and replace it with a “collective security system involving Russia which would have disarmament as its central objective”.
It also advocates a policy of “detente” towards Russia, “instead of further escalation and the deployment of troops or manoeuvres on [Russia’s] western border”.
Scholz and Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ chancellor candidate, have both refused to rule out a tie-up with Die Linke, though Scholz said he would only form a coalition with parties committed to Nato.
Merkel stressed that, unlike the CDU/CSU, the SPD and Greens were prepared to contemplate an alliance with Die Linke “or at least are refusing to rule it out”.
The chancellor said the election was a “decision about Germany’s future direction”, warning of the implications of a leftwing government for German foreign policy, its relationship with Nato and Europe, and also for Germany’s economic and fiscal policy.