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Merkel in campaign finale tells voters that leadership is key

Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Candidates have vowed to upgrade the country’s digital infrastructure, combat climate change — especially after deadly floods shocked the nation in July — and grapple with the challenges of an aging population.

The next chancellor will also have to contend with the transformation of Germany’s vaunted auto industry toward electric vehicles.

Scholz had a stunning surge over the summer from a distant third place behind Laschet and Green candidate Annalena Baerbock. Most observers wrote him off as recently as August.

The 63-year-old finance chief, whose understated delivery echoes that of Merkel, has gained traction by persuading voters he’s the right candidate to take over Germany’s economy.

Yet with polls showing the race tightening once more, Laschet’s betting on a comeback that would allow him to claim the mandate to head the next government.

The SPD’s lead over Laschet’s CDU/CSU alliance shrank to 1 percentage point in an Allensbach poll for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on Friday. Essentially, the race is too close to call.

Baerbock, 40, whose initial promise dimmed over allegations of plagiarism and missteps in the campaign, also took her closing arguments to North Rhine-Westphalia on Friday, with a rally in state capital Dusseldorf.

 

At a campaign stop in Potsdam late Thursday, Baerbock spoke about the Green platform of tackling climate change, investing in health infrastructure, and ruling out tax cuts for the wealthy. She portrayed herself as the choice for genuine change after four terms under Merkel, including three with the Social Democrats as a partner in government.

A shuttered wind-turbine plant in Brandenburg state “is the result of 16 years of CDU — and 12 of SPD,” Baerbock said to cheers from the crowd of several hundred in the state capital.

The first projections of the election result, based on exit polls, will be released at 6 p.m. Sunday. But election night will only be the start of a lengthy process of forging a governing coalition, which is likely to require three parties. A close result means talks could drag on for weeks or months.

Scholz would aim to take up preliminary talks for an alliance with the Greens and the Free Democrats, a match-up made difficult by the FDP’s hard line against new taxes and borrowing. The SPD could alternatively bring on the anti-capitalist Left party, though with that party’s rejection of armed missions abroad, it’s unlikely.

Should Laschet pull off a win, he’d also most likely lobby the Greens and FDP — a constellation that Merkel attempted in 2017 only to see it collapse when FDP Chairman Christian Lindner walked away.

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