Schroeder and Merkel fighting for every last vote
16 September 2005, BERLIN - Fighting for every vote, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and conservative challenger Angela Merkel extended their campaigns into the weekend on the eve of Germany's Sunday general elections.
16 September 2005
BERLIN - Fighting for every vote, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and conservative challenger Angela Merkel extended their campaigns into the weekend on the eve of Germany's Sunday general elections.
Both Schroeder and Merkel will later Friday address what had originally been billed as their final campaign appearances at separate rallies in Berlin.
But showing how tight the race has become, both candidates will hold rallies Saturday in the crucial state of North Rhine-Westphalia - Germany's most populous state - in a bid to scoop up more votes.
Merkel has spent the campaign hammering Schroeder over Germany's almost five million jobless and sickly growth in Europe's biggest economy.
Schroeder insists he wants another term to continue reforms and has highlighted his opposition to the Iraq war which Merkel supported.
While Merkel is widely expected to win the most votes, her Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) has seen its commanding lead melt away during past months.
After six leading opinion polls showed her failing to clinch a majority over the past week, Merkel got some good news Friday with a poll showing a majority for her centre-right bloc amid declines for Schroeder's Social Democrats.
Merkel's CDU/CSU is projected to win between 41 per cent and 43 per cent and her Free Democratic (FDP) ally is at 7 per cent to 8 per cent, said the Forsa agency RTL TV poll.
Combining the higher poll result for both parties would give Merkel 51 per cent if confirmed in Sunday's general election.
In contrast, Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) have lost between one and three points over the past week and are now at 32 per cent to 34 per cent, the Forsa poll said.
With the Chancellor's Greens coalition partner at 6 per cent to 7 per cent the combined higher result for the ruling SPD-Greens would put them at just 41 per cent.
Analysts agree that Schroeder's current government has no chance of reelection.
A surprising 25 per cent of the 2,004 voters surveyed for the poll said they were still undecided.
"So close to election day we can only give the general mood rather than a precise prognosis," said Forsa's head, Manfred Guellner.
The new Left Party, a merger of former East Germany's communists and a western German protest group, could still emerge as a key player on Sunday given that it is at 7 per cent to 8 per cent.
Schroeder has vowed not to set up any coalition with the Left Party.
If Merkel falls short of a majority on Sunday - as most polls still predict - there are two possible scenarios.
The most likely move would be a bid by Merkel to form a grand coalition with Schroeder's SPD as junior partner. Although both politicians reject such a government, it is the one possible grouping which has a solid majority in every opinion poll.
A second possibility, reportedly being considered by Schroeder as a means to cling to power, would involve adding the opposition FDP to his government.
But taking even the higher values from Friday's Forsa poll would still only give a Schroeder-led SPD-Greens-FDP government 49 per cent and most other surveys show even less for this model.
Subject: German news