China Daily (Hong Kong)

Rivals spar in last-ditch plea to Germans

- By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels Agencies contribute­d to the story.

Candidates from Germany’s main parties held a final televised debate on Thursday night before the general election on Sunday that will see one of them replace 16-year incumbent Angela Merkel as chancellor.

Unlike the previous three debates that featured chancellor candidates from the three biggest parties, Thursday’s showdown included representa­tives from all seven of the main parties. The three debate veterans — Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU; Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party, or SPD; and Annalena Baerbock of the Greens — were joined by Christian Lindner of the Free Democratic Party, or FDP; Markus Soder of the Christian Social Union, or CSU; Alice Weidel of the Alternativ­e for Germany, or AfD; and Janine Wissler of the Left Party. The CDU and the CSU have long run as an alliance in the general election.

Polls by broadcaste­r ZDF after the debate showed a close race with the SPD ahead with 25 percent, followed by the CDU-CSU with 23 percent, and the Greens on 16.5 percent. Trailing were the FDP on 11 percent, the AfD with 10 percent, and the Left on 6 percent.

Some 650,000 volunteers will work at 88,000 polling stations across Germany to hand out ballots from 8 am to 6 pm on Sunday.

Unlike in the US presidenti­al election, Germans don’t vote directly for their chancellor. Voters have two ballots, one for the representa­tive in their district to the parliament, known as the Bundestag, and the second for the party that decides the makeup of the Bundestag.

While the results of exit polls are expected to be out after the ballot boxes close at 6 pm, the announceme­nt of the official election result could take days or even weeks.

Intensive talks expected

The new Bundestag will convene in Berlin no later than Oct 26. But in the last Bundestag election four years ago, it took six months for the new German government to be formed after intensive talks between parties for a coalition government.

The coalition talks will likely be more complicate­d this time, since many are looking at several options for a three-party government.

It is the new Bundestag that will decide on the next chancellor who must win an absolute 50 percent among the parliament­ary members. It means that the departing Merkel could remain as head of a caretaker government for weeks or months after the election.

While the SPD has been leading in the polls over the past months, the Sunday election result is far from certain because a big proportion of German voters are still undecided.

A survey by the Frankfurte­r Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper shows that 40 percent of voters who plan to cast a vote were still undecided on which party to vote for.

Both Laschet and Scholz have tried to convince voters they are the right continuity successor to 67-yearold Merkel, who has been widely regarded as one of the most influentia­l European and world leaders.

A recent Pew Center Survey shows that 77 percent of countries surveyed said they trusted Merkel when it came to doing the right thing regarding global affairs.

Merkel hit the campaign trail with Laschet on Tuesday in the small city of Stralsund on Germany’s Baltic coast to shore up support for her own party’s candidate.

“The next years will be about whether Germany, (the state) and this constituen­cy are still connected to the best of the world,” Merkel told the crowds. “A chancellor Armin Laschet will continue to make sure of that.”

 ?? TOBIAS SCHWARZ VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Candidates take part in a final televised debate in Berlin on Thursday, ahead of the German general election on Sunday.
TOBIAS SCHWARZ VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS Candidates take part in a final televised debate in Berlin on Thursday, ahead of the German general election on Sunday.

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