Merkel makes final push as election looms

Angela Merkel

Conversely, the FGW survey showed the conservatives holding steady on 36 per cent while the SPD fell 1.5 points to 21.5 per cent.

Though the race for the bronze medal is still too close to call, there's no denying the AfD is gaining momentum.

If the AfD to secure a third place finish they could find themselves becoming the main opposition party in Germany if Merkel's CDU/CSU party decide to extend their Grand Coalition with the SPD.

While Merkel has been pushing her stability and prosperity agenda and Schulz seeking to sway voters with his pledges for greater social equality, the AfD has diverted attention.

Merkel shared the stage in Munich with Horst Seehofer, the Bavarian premier and leader of the Christian Social Union who became Merkel's chief antagonist during the refugee crisis, which saw some 1.3 million migrants flow into Germany in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile the Greens and the Left have featured little in this election, and the unpopularity of the Europhile SDP stands in stark contrast with the rise of AfD - as well as the reinvigoration of the pro-business Free Democrats Party (FDP), under the charismatic leadership of Christian Lindner.

With a record 37 per cent of German voters still undecided or reluctant to declare right-wing polling intentions, the AfD's percentage could be even higher. The party was also plagued by infighting, further blunting its appeal. That the party managed to remain so stable in this situation is a modest victory in itself. Five of the eight German chancellors since 1949 are from the CDU. He added that "in so far as differences exist between the four parties that could become part of the government, they are a matter of details and nuances".

Critics say such attacks have only backfired.

"In other words, Europe can expect more of the same from Germany", Hans Kundnani of the German Marshall Fund wrote this week in an editorial for Spanish daily, El Pais.

Aside from the hard-right populist noise, the past two months of campaigning by the major parties have been widely criticised as lacklustre and uninspired, with few hot-button issues dividing the main contenders.

The DAX index had a tight week of consolidation in a week that culminates in the German elections.

Merkel - who has been heckled and booed as a "traitor" by AfD followers - was nonetheless headed back into one of their strongholds yesterday, in her Baltic coast constituency where the anti-Islam party beat Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in state elections previous year.

Even for close observers of Germany's humdrum election campaign, identifying the policy differences between the big parties can be hard. If that happens though, Merkel is likely to push for preserving the status quo, since that's her natural inclination and because she will be pressed by the FDP to resist any further fiscal integration.

Here too, the AfD appears to have benefited from its outsider image.

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

That means voters ardently opposed to Merkel have only two real options - the leftist Die Linke party and the AfD.

A voter can vote for a constituent from one party, but then vote for another party's list, effectively splitting their vote. Italy's struggle to cope with an upsurge in arrivals from Africa in the summer renewed fears in Germany that it could face a new wave of migrants traveling north over the Brenner Pass through Austria to the German border. But it's climbed back up in the polls, largely thanks to a campaign which focuses on immigration.

"Everything is possible, from 31 to 43 percent", Reiner Haseloff, CDU premier in Saxony-Anhalt, reportedly told colleagues this week.

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