German national election too close to call, polls suggest, as key candidates hold final rallies

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Voting predictions on Saturday point to a small but narrow lead for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) over Merkel’s party, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel has been a symbol of stability in Europe since taking over as chancellor in 2005. But after nearly 16 years at the top, she would step down once it became clear who would be her successor.
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The closeness of the race coupled with Germany’s complex voting system means that it can take some time before a winning coalition is formed and the eventual winner is revealed.

Environmental concerns and economic concerns have emerged as key issues in campaigning due to deadly floods that ravaged parts of Germany this summer.

The SPD and the CDU, the two largest parties in German politics, have been sharing power under Merkel’s fourth term as chancellor.

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CDU leader Armin Laschet, the party’s next chancellor and candidate for North Rhine-Westphalia’s premiership, held a final campaign rally with Merkel in Aachen on Saturday.

A boy presented 67-year-old Merkel with a gingerbread heart emblazoned with the words “Thanks CDU” and another supporter gave her a cake decorated with a picture of his trademark rhombus hand gesture.

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Addressing the crowd, Merkel said Sunday’s election was up to Germany to remain “stable” and ensure that “the youth have a future and that we can live in prosperity.” He said Lasquet had shown throughout his political career that he could pursue it “with passion and heart”.

The Social Democrats’ rival candidate, Olaf Scholz, held his last rally in his constituency in Potsdam on Saturday. Scholz has served as Chancellor and German Finance Minister since 2018.

Scholz told supporters that if elected, he would like to agree to a 12 euro ($14) per hour increase in the minimum wage within the first year of government. “I want to achieve that the people who work so hard, and earn less, have it a little better,” he said.

Scholz also noted the concerns of many voters about climate change. Many young people demonstrated on Friday, he said, “and they put their fingers in a wound that is real – because global climate change has to stop and to do that we have to do our part in Germany.”

Sleeping Beauty's forest is dying.  This isn't the only climate crisis facing Germany's next chancellor

FDP leader Christian Lindner was to end his election campaign with rallies in Cologne and Düsseldorf.

According to the latest polls, the Social Democrats are voting at 25.2% and may score a 4.7 percentage point compared to the 2017 national elections. This rise could mean a reversal of a 20-year long downward trend for the Social Democrats. In the past two decades, the party has lost almost half of its electorate.

Polls indicate that the Christian Democrats are trailing behind the SPD by about 22.4% by several percentage points. This could mean a loss of 10.5 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections and 19.1 percentage points compared to the 2013 elections.

The Greens are currently in third place with 15.9% of the vote. However, the Ecumenical Party may register the strongest growth of all parties in the next federal election, with a potential lead of 7.5 percentage points over the previous national elections in 2017. The leader of the Greens, Annalena Berbock, has emerged as a contender. Coalition talks on the chancellor and potential kingmaker are expected to follow on Sunday’s vote.

Germany’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) is polled at 11.1% and according to election predictions, is expected to gain only marginal gains compared to the previous national elections.

The far-right Alternative for Germany Party (AFD) is voting at 10.6% – a decrease of 2 percentage points compared to the 2017 national elections.

The AfD – which saw a remarkable success in the 2017 elections following an influx of refugees into Germany in 2015 – has struggled to maintain its momentum and has faced harsh criticism over its overly far-right ties.

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Credit : www.cnn.com

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