Townsville Bulletin

Auf Wiedersehe­n, Ange

German chancellor steps down amid three-way race to form government


German chancellor Angela Merkel has bowed out after 16 years in power with a final campaign appearance alongside her anointed heir, Armin Laschet.

It comes as the nation overnight was preparing to go to the polls in what is set to be one of the closest elections in Germany’s post-war history.

The chancellor, 67, looked relaxed (pictured) as she addressed crowds gathered under a bright blue sky from a makeshift stage in the historic centre of Mr Laschet’s home city of Aachen, in the far west.

In a brief speech, she looked back on her achievemen­ts in power, but also warned voters of the stakes in a contest that sees her Christian Democratic Union – which has led the country for 50 of the past 70 years – struggling to cling on to power after her decision to step down.

“(Monday) is all about whether Germany remains stable,” Ms Merkel said.

“It is wrong to say that it doesn’t matter who rules Germany,” she said, praising Mr Laschet, 60, as someone who “builds bridges” and “takes people with him”.

Ms Merkel’s appearance with her would-be successor represente­d a change in tactics after taking a back seat early in the campaign. But the chancellor has belatedly thrown her weight behind Mr Laschet after watching their party surrender a 10-point lead in July over the Social Democrats to slump into second place.

The tactic appears to have worked. Olaf Scholz, 63, the

SPD contender, still remains ahead in the polls, with 25-26 per cent of the vote.

But the Social Democrats’ lead over the CDU and the Christian Social Union, its Bavarian sister party, has shrunk in recent days to anything between four points and just one.

In his speech, Mr Laschet warned that a vote for Mr Scholz could mean a coalition that included the Left party, heir to the former East Germany’s ruling Communists.

“Anyone who votes for the SPD gets a left alliance,” he said, warning against “ideologica­l experiment­s” that would “gamble away everything we have built up in the past 16 years”.

Although such attacks won Mr Laschet loud applause, the main draw for many in the crowd was Merkel. Regardless of who comes first, the result will almost certainly be a three-party coalition for the first time since the 1950s.

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