Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) of the Christian Democratic Union appreciates best wishes from a chimney sweep at her final campaign stop in Stralsund, Germany, yesterday.
BERLIN/FRANKFURT: Angela Merkel wrapped up her re-election campaign yesterday with an appeal to defend Europe and her centre-right coalition against Eurosceptics who threaten to break into the German parliament for the first time in today’s election.
With a third of the 62 million voters still undecided and the small Alternative for Germany (AfD) tapping into impatience with euro zone bailouts, Europe’s most powerful leader risks spending her third term in an awkward right-left coalition.
“Lots of people won’t make up their mind until the last minute. Now is the time to reach every undecided voter and get their support,” she told supporters in Berlin, before flying to her Baltic coast constituency for a final campaign stop. She did not name the AfD, who have emerged in seven months to become the wild card of Germany’s first federal election since the euro zone debt crisis began. The AfD wants Greece and other struggling states to be expelled from the single currency.
But Merkel spent half her speech defending the European Union, which had been largely ignored in the campaign because her Christian Democrats (CDU) and the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) mostly agree on how to tackle the crisis.
“Europe is economically important, yes, but it is much more than that. Next year we’ll be thinking back to the start of the World War One 100 years ago,” said the 59-year-old chancellor. “Most of us here have never had to live through war.”
“In the coming years we must keeping working for the success of this wonderful continent,” she said to loud applause.
The AfD’s rapid rise in the polls forced the CDU to change tactics at the last minute. After studiously ignoring it, they brought out respected Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble this week to attack it as “dangerous” for Germany’s economy.
Polls put Merkel’s conservatives about 13 percentage points ahead of the SPD, meaning she will almost certainly become the third post-war chancellor to win a third term. REUTERS