Race to succeed Germany’s Merkel has grown tighter

Germany’s election race heated up yesterday as the lead of the center-left Social Democrats over Angela Merkel’s conservatives narrowed to four points, three days before the federal vote.

The SPD, whose candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz is currently vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition, slipped one point to 25 percent, according to a Kantar poll.

Support for Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance, whose chancellor candidate is Armin Laschet, rose one percentage point to 22 percent, while the Greens, led by Annalena Baerbock slipped a point to 16 percent.

The business-friendly Free Democrats were stuck at 11 percent.

The 67-year-old Merkel, in power since 2005, is the first chancellor not to seek re-election since 1949, and allies are watching nervously, wary of an uncertain outcome and less participation on the international scene by Europe’s biggest power of 83 million people.

For the center-right CDU-CSU bloc, the stakes could hardly be higher. Its pick for chancellor, the affable but gaffe-prone Laschet, 60, has seen his popularity dwindle since he was caught chuckling during a tribute to victims of floods in July.

The conservatives now face the prospect of not just losing the chancellery but of being booted out of power altogether.

Scholz, 63, often described as capable but boring, has cast himself as a safe pair of hands.

After steering Germany through crises such as the 2009-2010 eurozone financial crunch, an influx of refugees in 2015 and the pandemic, Merkel leaves behind an economic powerhouse in good health.

But critics say years of under-investment in infrastructure and education have left the European Union’s most populous country unprepared for a greener and more digital future.

Climate change has emerged as a top voter concern among 60.4 million people eligible to vote, with little attention to foreign policy in campaigning.

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