Merkel makes final push as election looms

Pauline Gross
September 24, 2017

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her beleaguered rival Martin Schulz embarked on a final push for votes on September 22 ahead of a weekend election, both seeking to beat back a challenge from the emboldened hard-right. Germany's two biggest parties, Merkel's Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), meanwhile, have suffered slight losses in recent weeks.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Hi there.

Anonymous threatening letters in Arabic containing white powder and razor blades have been sent to German chancellor Angela Merkel's home and other politicians before Sunday's election, the police said. What are some of the problems she's faced? For the first time, it could enter parliament with as many as three members. That's just not done here.

Alternative for Germany party plans to launch an investigation into Merkel' decision to open borders in 2015. "Social Democracy has always been the bulwark of democracy, and we're going to stand in your way".

STEFAN KORNELIUS: Suddenly and surprisingly Merkel has become a very polarizing figure.

Merkel has managed to win over new supporters without disgruntling her core base.

The CDU will have to seek a coalition agreement with the SPD or one of the other minor parties to form a government. Any idea who with?

"Both sides are eager to work together", Pierre Vimont, a former French and European Union diplomat who now works for the Carnegie Europe think tank in Brussels, told EUobserver. And one is the Left Party, which is the successor of sorts to the East German Communists.

A voter can vote for a constituent from one party, but then vote for another party's list, effectively splitting their vote. Smaller parties gained, particularly the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, which is poised to become the first far-right party to enter parliament since World War II.

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The median age was about 38 in the United States a year ago and 46.8 in Germany.

Whereas Merkel's approach to politics could be summarized under the slogan "no experiments", it is a promise that has a long history in her CDU.

NELSON: Well, the main thing is that Germany has really boomed economically under her leadership despite the fact that there was a financial and euro crisis some years back. Her quiet demeanor and steady hand on Germany's rudder has built her into a bedrock of German and European stability. But it's also too simplistic to say that it has unambiguously weakened her, in part because her rationale-"Wir schaffen das", or "We can handle it"-was an expression of the potential for action, rather than simple, open-armed humanitarianism".

NELSON: I have friends who say that she's a regular at their local supermarket where you can see her returning her own plastic bottles and filling her grocery cart. "In the US, you had about one million TV ads during the last presidential campaign aired in the battleground states, and in all of Germany, you have about 1,000 campaign ads airing". A third-place finish - behind the Merkel's conservative bloc and the SPD - could make the AfD Germany's largest opposition party, bestowing on it a host of privileges, including generous public financing, that would make it a formidable political force.

Citizenship applications from Britons leapt by 361% in 2016 as a record number of nearly 3,000 United Kingdom citizens became German, a figure that is is expected to be considerably higher this year, according to Germany's federal statistics office.

NELSON: During her recent debate, she said that there are issues Germany and the USA have to work on together like ISIS and Afghanistan, and she said she's going to continue talking to Trump about their differences and will do her best to find resolution and common ground.

Trump has attacked the chancellor personally for the liberal refugee policy she adopted during the 2015 migrant crisis, and he has laid into Germany for allegedly seeking to undercut American auto markets.

CHANG: All right. That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson.

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