Merkel receives rousing pre-vote 'save the world' chorus
BERLIN, Germany – Chancellor Angela Merkel received a rousing greeting of "Angie must save the world" Saturday, September 21, at a last-ditch campaign push for votes on the eve of tightly-contested German elections.
As the band belted out music, a smiling and relaxed Merkel rallied thousands of supporters at her final stump stop in Berlin before Sunday's (September 22) vote in which she seeks another four years leading Europe's top economy.
Merkel, 59, is on course for a third term as chancellor but the big question is with whom she will govern.
The last poll before Germany's nearly 62 million voters go the polls showed her current coalition with the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) set for a down-to-the-wire finish with its rivals.
Their combined tally of 45 percent may not be enough for the current coalition to secure a majority under German electoral maths.
"The continued governing by this coalition remains uncertain," Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist from Berlin's Free University said.
Merkel's steering of the eurozone crisis has prompted angry protests on the streets of Greece and other stricken countries but she told Saturday's rally that Germany also "needs friends".
Her message to German voters in the countdown to the election, also being watched closely from abroad, has been "you know who I am", amid consistent voter approval of her handling of the crisis.
And she again voiced opposition to any pooling of Europe's debt, which at the height of the crisis was a key topic for debate among eurozone peers.
Her main rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD) whose candidate to unseat Merkel, Peer Steinbrueck, held a competing rally in the western city of Frankfurt Saturday, scored 26% and their preferred allies, the ecologist Greens, tallied 9%.
Steinbrueck has ruled out a tie-up with the far-left Linke, which descended from former East German Communists and won 9% in the Emnid poll for Sunday's Bild weekly newspaper.
'Stickers on empty bottles'
Amid red balloons and flags, Steinbrueck answered final stump-day questions on his call for an across-the-board minimum wage of 8.50 euros an hour ($11), fair pay and care reform before addressing the crowd in a Frankfurt square.
The 66-year-old Steinbrueck, a self-styled straight talking challenger has campaigned for more social justice, slamming what he calls Merkel's empty policy phrases as "stickers on empty bottles".
"Tomorrow evening you can be rid of the most inactive government that has made the most reversals since reunification," he said in Germany's financial capital and home to the European Central Bank.
"Mrs Merkel is going round and round. Where is this country's direction?" he asked, adding his party wanted to "correct" the country's problems.
After a gaffe-prone campaign, he has consistently struggled to chip away at Merkel's popularity or to score political points in a personality-driven campaign where a popular chancellor is running on her track record.
Steinbrueck, a former finance minister, has run into trouble during the campaign, most recently after a surly middle-finger front-page photo of him as a non-verbal reply to a question on his stumbling candidacy.
Merkel's success in holding on to power with her current coalition hinges on the precarious fate of her FDP junior partners who crashed out of Bavaria's state parliament last Sunday, September 15, but would, according to the latest poll, narrowly scrape by nationally.
The FDP has mounted a homestretch plea to conservatives to "split" their ballot by casting constituency votes for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) but giving the Free Democrats their second, or party, vote to save the coalition.
Merkel has nixed the tactical move, but if the smaller party is kicked out nationally, she will have to seek new partners -- most likely her party's traditional rivals the SPD, with whom she ruled in a previous 2005-09 "grand coalition".
A wild card could be the small parties that have flirted with the all-important 5% hurdle for entry into parliament, especially the new eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) which scored 4% in the last poll. – Rappler.com