Merkel's party expected to be victorious in vote
By Deborah Cole, AFPBERLIN--German voters look set to reward Angela Merkel Sunday with a third term, for seeing them through the eurozone crisis stronger than before, making her the only major European leader to survive the turmoil.
September 20, 2013, 12:21 am TWN
As the debt drama laid waste to counterparts in France, Spain, Greece and Italy, Merkel has amassed more popularity than any German post-war chancellor, nicknamed “Mutti” (Mummy) for her reassuring, take-charge demeanor.
Pollsters say all roads appear to lead to Merkel, often called the world's most powerful woman, winning re-election.
The vote, in which nearly 62 million Germans are called to the ballot box, will instead turn on whether her current center-right coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) can hold onto power.
Poll numbers suggest it will be a close call.
If they fail to muster a ruling majority, Merkel would be forced into the arms of her traditional rivals, the Social Democrats, in a “grand coalition” — the same loveless union of her first four-year term.
“We have no votes to give away,” she told several campaign rallies this week after the FDP pleaded for centrist voters to give them a helping hand following a disastrous defeat in a Bavarian state election.
“We will fight for every vote.”
Each German has two votes to cast, one for their local candidate and one for the party, leaving them the option of splitting their vote.
Merkel is fearful such tactical voting to aid the FDP, which is teetering on the 5-percent threshold for seats in parliament, could leave her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) weakened as she embarks on another four years at the helm.
But while Germans look forward to another Merkel term, Europeans in the crisis-ravaged south blame her austerity-driven strategy for aggravating joblessness and economic stagnation.
Meanwhile massive bailout packages for stricken countries, financed in large part by Germany, have given rise to an anti-euro party, AfD, which is now flirting with the five-percent mark.
If it manages to enter parliament, analysts say the electoral math would shift to such an extent that the center-right would lose their ruling majority, making a grand coalition nearly inevitable.
Advocates of stronger stimulus measures had placed their hopes in the Social Democrats, however their gaffe-prone candidate Peer Steinbrueck, 66, has stumbled repeatedly and the SPD is now trailing the conservatives by a 13-point margin in opinion polls.