Published on: Amended:
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged the Germans to give her future successor Armin Laschet the vote to shape Germany’s future, in a last ditch effort to consolidate her besieged campaign 24 hours before the Germans vote. Throughout his campaign, the Conservative candidate had to gain popularity to face his left-wing opponent Olaf Scholz.
Laschet, 60, drags his Social Democratic challenger Olaf Scholz in the chancellery race, though final polls put the gap between them within the margin of error, making the vote one of the most unpredictable of recent times years.
Merkel had planned to keep a low profile in the electoral battle as she prepares to step down from politics after 16 years in office. But she found herself drawn into the frantic campaign schedule of her party’s unpopular president, Laschet.
In the last week of the campaign, Merkel took Laschet to her constituency on the Baltic coast and was headlining the closing rally of the Tory bigwigs in Munich on Friday.
Merkel tugged at the heartstrings of the predominantly older German electorate on Friday, calling on them to keep her conservatives in power for the sake of stability – a hallmark of Germany.
“To keep Germany stable, Armin Laschet must become chancellor, and the CDU and CSU must be the most powerful force,” she said.
A day before the vote, she visited Laschet’s hometown and the constituency of Aachen, a spa town near Germany’s western border with Belgium and the Netherlands. , where he was born and still lives.
“It is about your future, the future of your children and the future of your parents,” she said, calling for a strong mobilization for her conservative alliance.
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Merkel stressed that climate protection will be a key challenge for the next government, but said this would not be achieved “just through rules and regulations”.
Laschet is a “bridge builder who will get people on board” to shape Germany to meet these challenges, she said.
The conservative candidate “is a proud European and has built his campaign on it,” reported Nick Spicer, TBEN correspondent in Berlin.
“He is much less popular with the Germans as a potential chancellor than Olaf Scholz,” Spicer said.
German Laschet “is a proud European and has built his campaign on it”
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Friday to demand change and greater climate protection, with one leading activist calling Sunday’s election a “century-old” vote.
“A new start for Germany” in the “continuity” of Merkel
As time is running out ahead of the election, Scholz was also staying close to his home across the country to chase the last votes.
Scholz is holding “future dialogues” with voters in his constituency in Potsdam, a city on the outskirts of Berlin famous for its palaces that once housed Prussian kings.
Currently finance minister in Merkel’s coalition government, Scholz avoided making mistakes during the election campaign and gained widespread support by selling himself as the “continuity candidate” after Merkel in place of Laschet.
Also, in the election campaign Friday, Scholz demanded a “new start for Germany” and “a change of government” after 16 years under Merkel.
Laschet lagging behind
Described as capable but boring, Scholz consistently beat Laschet by wide margins in popularity.
As Election Day approached, Laschet’s Tories were closing the gap, with one poll placing them even a percentage point behind the SPD’s 26%.
Laschet embarked on the race for the chancellery seriously bruised by a tough battle for the nomination of the Conservative chancellor candidate.
Nonetheless, his party enjoyed a substantial lead ahead of the SPD as summer approached.
But Laschet was seen laughing behind President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as he paid tribute to the victims of the deadly July floods, an image that would radically turn the tide against him and his party.
As the polls showed the SPD’s widening lead, the Tories turned to their biggest asset – the ever-popular Merkel.
However, the rope to the chancellor is not without risks, said political scientist Oskar Niedermayer of the Free University of Berlin.
“Merkel is still the most valued politician. But joint appearances can become a problem for Laschet because they are then immediately compared to each other,” he said. “And so it could backfire because people might then think Merkel is more appropriate than Laschet.”
(TBEN with TBEN)
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