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Opinion polls show a Merkel win in German election


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Good For Germany.

Good for Britain.

Good for the US.

A distaster for France.

Latest surveys suggest Merkel's party is on 41.5% and Schroeder's party is on 32.5%.

Germans set to give Merkel grudging win

Opinion polls suggest a majority for the CDU leader and her allies today. But voters fear she will be a lacklustre Chancellor, reports Luke Harding in Berlin

Sunday September 18, 2005

The Observer

In front of Berlin's shabby former East German parliament building, several hundred Left party supporters gathered under a grey sky. On stage, a white reggae band was singing about injustice. Next to the beer stall several protesters stood and chatted, holding placards with the slogan: 'Against neoliberalism.'

'I'm all in favour of women in politics,' Margaret Linke, 79, who had turned up to Friday night's final rally of Germany's new party, said. 'It's just that Angela Merkel is the wrong kind of woman.'

As Germans go to the polls today in the closest general election for decades, it is this unlikely alliance of elderly Communist grannies and hirsute left-wing activists who may hold the key to the result in Europe's biggest economy.

Merkel now appears to be ahead. Latest surveys suggest her Christian Democrat party (CDU) is on 41.5 per cent and its Free Democrat (FDP) partner on 8 per cent - just enough for her to form a centre-right coalition.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) are on 32.5 per cent, with the Greens on 7 per cent and the Left party on 8.5 per cent, the poll says. If there is a hung parliament Merkel could be forced into a 'grand coalition' with the SPD.

If this proves impossible and talks break down, the Left party could then back either Merkel or Schroeder when Germany's parliament meets next month to elect a new chancellor in a secret ballot. It could be a moment of high drama.

'Under Schroeder the rich people have got richer,' said Linke. 'This is unjust. It's been done at the expense of the poor,' she added.

'It's very easy to get rid of something like a welfare state. You know this from Mrs Thatcher. It's harder to put it back together again,' said Sophie Neuberg, a 39-year-old translator.

Less than half a mile away, Schroeder was addressing several thousand supporters at his own rally, the culmination of an extraordinary comeback. He had been written off as a lame duck ever since announcing an early election last May. Schroeder has fought a brilliant campaign, reducing Merkel's 21-point leading the polls to between 7 and 9 per cent.

He will almost certainly lose today and so, in one of his final campaign speeches, Schroeder defended his legacy. He told the rally that his seven years in government had made Germany more tolerant, and harked back to his greatest triumph in most Germans' eyes: his refusal to support George Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Under his leadership, Germany made a decisive contribution to 'solving the world's conflicts peacefully', he told supporters, sheltering on the steps of Berlin's neo-classical concert hall.

Nobel Prize winning writer Gunter Grass then appeared, pointing out that Merkel would have led Germany into the Iraq quagmire. Speaking in an antiquated, elegant German, Grass said Schroeder represented a 'tradition of tolerance going back to the European enlightenment.'

Schroeder and his Green party foreign minister Joschka Fischer had proved they had the courage to tackle reform, Grass said, adding: 'There isn't anyone better.'

For all this, there seems little doubt Schroeder is at the end of his political career. He has indeed made Germany a more liberal place. But he has also failed to reduce unemployment, now at almost five million, or take Germany out of its economic slump.

Merkel has had a disastrous campaign but will probably win. She has proved a lacklustre figure whose vision seems little more than a series of technical tweaks to VAT and social security. On foreign policy, she has maintained a Trappist silence. But there will be a sigh of relief in Downing Street if Merkel is voted Germany's first woman chancellor today.

British officials make little secret of how Tony Blair's relationship with Schroeder is broken beyond repair, and hope a Merkel-led Germany will be an ally in Britain's attempts to reform the EU.

Merkel will want to improve relations with London and Washington but her priorities would be at home, reviving Germany's economy and keeping ahead of her back-stabbing colleagues.

'She will be a weak chancellor,' Klaus Malzahn, a political journalist for Der Spiegel magazine said yesterday. 'She will be trapped between the barons in the CDU and the SPD. Germany is not getting an Adenauer or a Willy Brandt. Instead we are getting a Kiesinger,' he said, referring to the now forgotten chancellor who led Germany's last 'grand coalition' in the Sixties. Malzahn said it would be a mistake to assume Merkel would immediately improve relations with the US. The CDU leader, unlike President Bush, is hostile to Turkish membership of the EU.

'There will be conflicts with the US. But the theme will be swapped. Instead of a row over Iraq, you will have a disagreement over Turkey,' he said.

One of the few certainties of this election is that the new Left party will record their best result and could even end up, in the event of a 'grand coalition', as the official opposition.

The party is likely to win up to five 'directly elected' seats in Berlin alone and have its own strong faction in the Bundestag; a stark contrast to the 2002 election when it won just two seats.

If Merkel does turn into a German Mrs Thatcher, as some commentators have predicted, then the post-communists have a rosy future. 'The other parties are all the same,' Linke said. 'They just disagree over the choice of sauce. Only we are are different.'


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He will almost certainly lose today

Not really.

That's what would happen if you could elect the Kanzler directly:


Merkels campaign was by all means desastrous. She IS weak, and she has shown it. The only problem with Schröder is his party(which led to this election in the first place)

You also have to keep in mind that Dresden could turn the tide in this election.

Edited by Snake_6024
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