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09 September 2013

CDU embarks on final sprint to German election day

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The German election campaign is hotting up: Merkel warns of over-confidence and lethargy; SPD poll results improve; Greens plummet in voters' favour; FDP suffers from internal disunity; Left Party gains support but is still ruled out as coalition partner by the SPD/Greens.

Mostly translated from the German


Personalities do not normally dominate politics in Germany, writes Quentin Peel for the FT (subscription required). But if anyone can hope to swing an election, it is Ms Merkel in Germany today. And she will have to do exactly that: in the latest Forsa poll, her CDU scores under 40 per cent for the first time since May.

She deliberately delivered a downbeat speech at the launch of the final spurt of an election campaign on Sunday, hammering away at her main campaign themes and defending her eurozone crisis management. Her real message, however, was very simple: "Trust Me. I am a safe pair of hands. I think before I act. You know me by now, so don’t vote for change."

But she also warned against what might be the biggest threat to her re-election as Chancellor: excessive certainty of victory. "Many might think the decision has already been made", Merkel said on Sunday, as reported by Spiegel Online - and the CDU leader knows how dangerous those thoughts could be. She thus tried to motivate the CDU electorate with warnings of a red-red-green alliance, and a possible "rude awakening" on election day. "We have to fight for every vote", Merkel said. In a two-vote system, where one vote goes to individual candidates and the second to a party, "you must give both votes to the CDU". This comment was a warning to the party faithful not to vote tactically, by giving their second votes to the liberal FDP to ensure that their coalition partners get the minimum 5 per cent needed to win seats in the Bundestag.


In turn, SPD challenger Peer Steinbrück's campaign has gained momentum since the televised debate at the beginning of September. The SPD is benefitting from a self-perpetuating cycle of good news and rising polls. With a six monthss high in the same Forsa poll, predicted to win 25 per cent of the votes, the SPD's campain is more spirited than it has been and by the latest INSA poll, quoted by Eurointelligence, the SPD is even predicted at 28 per cent.

35 per cent of the population now claim they would prefer Steinbrück as Chancellor - an increase of 7 percentage points. Angela Merkel (CDU), however, still leads with 50 per cent (minus 2), according to an Emnid poll quoted by Spiegel Online

Reuters Germany reported how Steinbrück reiterated that the SPD would not, despite low poll results, turn to the Left Party for support. "The SPD does not consider the Left Party capable of forming a coalition", Steinbrück said at a campaign event. However, it remains unclear whether the rejection of cooperation with the left will be unheld by the SPD until election night, or will also apply to the entire four years of the new term.


At the meeting of red-green party heavyweights from the Länder, both Steinbrück and his Green Party colleagues Katrin Göring-Eckardt and Jürgen Trittin sought to demonstrate their will to win. They continue to believe in a surprise on election day, writes the Frankfurter Allgemeine. Recent polls predict the Greens with now only 9 per cent of the votes, their worst poll result all year, which would be the first time they score lower than the Left Party in a federal election, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine points out.


The FDP's campaign has run into difficulties too. As Die Welt reported, FDP candidate for chancellor, Rainer Brüderle, is getting little support from FDP ministers, and internal debates weaken the image of the party. One person who is supporting him publically however is former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU), with talks about shared values and former successful coalitions. 

Brüderle said that voters had to to be aware of the fact that a "cartel on the left" between the SPD, Greens and Left Party would constitute "a real threat", as Social Democrats and Greens were preparing tax increases of around €40 billion, and some members of the Left Party were still convinced that "the GDR was only badly managed".

Left Party

Even though SPD and the Greens continue to rule out a coalition, the Left Party advertises for "red-red-green". At a party convention it presented 10 conditions for participation in the government, reports Spiegel Online. Top candidate Gregor Gysi stressed that there would be no change of direction in the policies should they be involved in the next government. Gysi called the fact that a red-red-green option is already being widely discussed a "tremendous success" and demanded the SPD and Greens considered dethroning Angla Merkel together. However, no lines of compromise for coalition discussions were proposed. In current polls, the Left Party is predicted to win 10 per cent of the votes.

Pirate Party

The Times (subscription required) reports on the upstart Pirate Party which believes it is close to making a breakthrough in the federal election, despite a long struggle to overcome its image as a band of disorganised nerds. In the Forsa poll referenced above, they are predicted to win a constant 3 per cent of the votes, not nearly enough to enter Parliament.

AfD - see separate article

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