Merkel re­jects Schulz's plea for sec­ond TV elec­tion de­bate

The Guardian Australia - - World News - Kate Con­nolly in Ber­lin

An­gela Merkel has flatly re­jected an ap­peal by her So­cial Demo­crat ri­val, Mar­tin Schulz, for a sec­ond prime­time TV de­bate just days be­fore Ger­mans go to the polls.

With Merkel widely ex­pected to se­cure a fourth term in of­fice on 24 Septem­ber, Schulz’s plea to the Ger­man chan­cel­lor is be­ing viewed as lit­tle more than a last-minute bid to claw back sup­port.

In his writ­ten re­quest to Merkel, Schulz said he had been ap­proached by many vot­ers on the cam­paign trail telling him they had many unan­swered ques­tions they would still like to put to the main can­di­dates. Schulz said some top­ics close to peo­ple’s hearts were not ad­dressed dur­ing their one di­rect con­fronta­tion be­fore a TV au­di­ence of more than 16 mil­lion on 3 Septem­ber, in­clud­ing pen­sions and ed­u­ca­tion.

Schulz, who re­peated his ap­peal in front of a TV au­di­ence on Tues­day evening, as well as on Twit­ter, wrote: “The cit­i­zens of this coun­try de­serve a com­pre­hen­sive de­bate on the cen­tral ques­tions re­lated to the fu­ture of this coun­try. For this rea­son I call for a sec­ond TV duel be­fore the elec­tion. I am pre­pared to go ahead with it at any time.”

But Merkel, who from the out­set has re­jected the idea of any­thing other than a sin­gle en­counter, and also suc­ceeded in re­sist­ing TV pro­duc­ers’ ideas for en­liven­ing what turned out to be a rather wooden for­mat, said she had no plans to change her mind.

“An­gela Merkel en­joyed tak­ing part in one TV duel,” her Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union (CDU) party said on Wed­nes­day, adding: “This for­mat proved suc­cess­ful and there­fore she’ll leave it at that.”

The TV de­bate is widely con­sid­ered the high­light so far of a rather un­event­ful cam­paign.

Over 97 min­utes the two politi­cians bat­tled it out on top­ics such as the refugee cri­sis, mo­tor­way tolls and re­la­tions with Turkey. For Schulz, the leader of the So­cial Democrats (SPD) who has been trail­ing in the polls for months, the duel was seen as his only chance to sig­nif­i­cantly change his party’s for­tunes. Thirty per­cent of Ger­mans said the de­bate would in­flu­ence their vot­ing be­haviour.

Polls af­ter­wards showed view­ers con­sid­ered Merkel the win­ner.

The lat­ests polls show the SPD has since failed to make any gains on the CDU, but in­stead has lost sup­port, pos­si­bly due to Schulz’s per­for­mance, namely his in­abil­ity to dis­tin­guish him­self suf­fi­ciently from Merkel.

Polls show the SPD trail­ing the CDU by be­tween 13 and 16 per­cent­age points. A Forsa In­sti­tute poll re­leased on Wed­nes­day showed the CDU on 37%, the SPD on 23%, Die Linke, the far-left party, on 10%, the far-right Al­ter­na­tive für Deutsch­land (AfD) on 9%, and both the Greens and the pro-busi­ness Free Demo­cratic party (FDP) on 8%.

A vic­to­ri­ous CDU is ex­pected ei­ther to re­new a grand coali­tion with the SPD, or to en­ter a “Ja­maica” coali­tion with the Greens and FDP.

Pho­to­graph: Reuters Tv/Reuters

An­gela Merkel was con­sid­ered to have got the bet­ter of Mar­tin Schulz in the one TV de­bate held, ac­cord­ing to polls.

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