Macron takes dig at Merkel over German election failure
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Last night, the frontrunners in the run to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor locked horns during their last televised debate ahead of the September 26 vote. CDU’s Armin Laschet, SPD’s Olaf Scholz and Greens’ Annalena Baerbock faced each other on German TV in a last bid to convince voters.
Though many issues were touched upon in the discussion between the three leaders, none of the candidates addressed Germany’s position in the EU and their plans on foreign and EU policies.
The move, or lack thereof, infuriated politicians in the European Parliament.
Italian MEP Marco Zanni tweeted this morning: “Yesterday, in the last debate before the German elections, the issue the EU wasn’t even touched upon.
“Between a ‘conference on the future of Europe’ already piloted in its conclusions and what is happening in the campaign in Germany, hopes that the EU will change course remain in vain.”
Echoing his concern, German MEP Sven Giegold also blasted: “Triell loser: Europe!
“Again, European politics was missing as an issue.
“All of Europe is looking to the Bundestag election, but the election campaign is not looking to Europe.
“A mark of poverty for the largest EU country!”
A debate on the future of the EU has been escaping the German Chancellor hopefuls since the beginning of their campaigns.
Last week, after the second of three televised debates between the candidates, EU expert Wolfgang Munchau noted: “Interesting, or depressing, that none of the candidates in the German elections have campaigned on EU themes.
“It means they won’t have a mandate to support big reforms.”
Last night’s debate came as pressure on the conservative Christian Democratic Union party candidate Armin Laschet intensified to close a gap in polls which have consistently put him behind SPD’s Scholz.
Mr Scholz, who serves as finance minister, used the issue of social inequality to lash out at his main opponent, reiterating that as chancellor he would push through a minimum wage of 12 euros ($14.08) per hour, something the CDU opposes.
“Mr Laschet, that may be the difference between you and me.
I’m not doing that because there is an election campaign right now. I have made this demand for years,” Mr Scholz said.
“To me it’s about the dignity of citizens. That is, however, what perhaps distinguishes us on this issue.”
A snap poll shortly after the event, which also included Annalena Baerbock of the Greens and featured issues ranging from climate change to digitalisation and security, declared Mr Scholz as winner, giving him a clean sweep in the series of debates.
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Earlier, an INSA poll for Bild am Sonntag had put the SPD at 26 percent support, stable from a week ago, while the conservative bloc of Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, added half a percentage point to come in at 21 percent.
The gap has been even wider in polls measuring the popularity of the individual chancellor candidates, indicating the uphill struggle Laschet is facing against Scholz ahead of the election.
Mr Laschet has been under fire since he was caught on camera laughing during a visit in the summer to a flood-stricken town.
Current polls, which show a highly fragmented picture as voters increasingly flock to smaller parties, leave room for several coalition scenarios, giving the liberal Free Democrats a potential king-maker role in upcoming coalition talks.
FDP party chief Christian Lindner on Sunday rebuffed demands by the CDU to rule out a so-called traffic light coalition with the SPD and the Greens. “We will not take orders from this (CDU),” he said at a party event.
Meanwhile, Scholz on Sunday expressed his preference for a coalition with the Greens, which current polls put at 15 percent.
Merkel’s chief of staff had earlier called on all parties to agree quickly on who should succeed her after the election and avoid the kind of protracted coalition talks that followed the last vote four years ago.
The likelihood of long coalition talks after the vote means Merkel will not be leaving office any time soon. She remains chancellor until a majority of Bundestag lawmakers elect a successor, who is then sworn in.
“My wish is for a swift government formation,” Helge Braun told Reuters, adding that even though the current government would continue to govern during looming coalition talks there were certain limitations over the scope of leadership.
“So I warn against losing time due to a very long government formation. One can certainly ask for the parties to swiftly express their preferences after the election over what their favoured coalitions are – so that one does not endlessly lose time in discussions.”
There are no formal restrictions on Merkel’s powers until a successor is chosen, but she is a consensus seeker and previous chancellors have not taken radical decisions during this time.
Following Germany’s last general election in 2017, it took a record six months before the new government was sworn in.
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