Merkel squares up to Schulz in rival’s last-ditch bid to save campaign

4 months, 10 days ago

Chancellors Social Democrat challenger hopes to use TV debate to revive flagging fortunes ahead of poll on 24 September

Angela Merkel is to face off against Martin Schulz in a television debate being billed as her Social Democrat rival’s last chance at saving his election campaign.

Schulz, who has accused the chancellor of lulling voters to sleep by offering noncommittal replies, will spar with her over 90 minutes in their only televised one-on-one before Germans vote on 24 September.

With many voters still undecided, Schulz is pinning his hopes on the primetime showdown, hoping to sway millions to his cause and halt a devastating slide in his popularity.

The former European parliament chief enjoyed a surge in support soon after taking the helm of the SPD in January, merely to consider the initial excitement fade away.

A poll published on Friday showed Merkel’s CDU party and its Bavarian CSU friends commanding a 17 -point lead over the SPD.

Sunday evening’s encounter will be above all a conflict of personalities- an illustration in the newspaper Die Zeit presented Schulz garmented in workman’s overalls, holding a envisage and trying to dismantle the throne of a regal” Queen Merkel “.

Schulz has has said is not nervous about Sunday’s clash. Merkel, who has largely avoided referring to Schulz or any other nominee by name, has so far refused to be drawn into a combative debate.

” If an election campaign is defined as good only when people insult each other, then that’s not my idea of what an election campaign is about ,” she said at her annual summertime press conference.

Her attitude has led German media to dub Schulz a shadow-boxerfor his thwarted attempts to engage her.

The TV debate is expected to draw almost 30 million viewers or about half of the electorate, according to a poll by research firm Forsa , commissioned by Stern magazine.

Crucially, one in five who plan to tune in also said the debate could sway their election, the survey found.

The two candidates will discuss topics given to them by four presenters, and beyond the content of the debate they will be scrutinised for their body language.

Days before the event, the chancellery was accused of rigging the format in Merkel’s favour by threatening to stay away after the broadcasters proposed changes aimed at fostering more spontaneity and a deeper debate.

Defending her office, Merkel told Spiegel magazine that while she respected press freedom,” a politician should also be free to decide whether he or she accepts an invitation to appear on a programme “.

Forsa’s CEO, Manfred Guellner, told the business newspaper Handelsblatt:” The TV du el format, like spontaneity and eloquence, are not too Merkel’s strength .” Schultz could benefit from appearing on the present, he said.

A poll published late on Thursday by the public broadcaster ARD found that 64% of those surveyed believed that Merkel would prevail, while only 17% believed Schulz would win the debate.

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