Schroeder's skills in debate won't boost his chances

5th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 September 2005, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder emerged the clear winner Monday following a face-to-face TV debate with Angela Merkel, head of Germany's opposition Christian Democrats, less than two weeks before the country goes to the polls.

5 September 2005

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder emerged the clear winner Monday following a face-to-face TV debate with Angela Merkel, head of Germany's opposition Christian Democrats, less than two weeks before the country goes to the polls.

However, Schroeder's superior performance before a record 21-million audience Sunday evening was unlikely to boost the chances of his ailing Social Democratic Party, commentators said.

There was general agreement that Schroeder had presented his arguments better to a TV audience, but analysts commented positively on Merkel's mastery of the facts and her ability to stand up to the experienced chancellor.

"Merkel shone, if only because she was able to keep up with the chancellor, which Schroeder had not expected," said Frank Schirrmacher of the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Hans Werner of the left-wing Sueddeutsche Zeitung noted that Merkel had performed much better than Edmund Stoiber, the Christian Democrat candidate who failed to oust Schroeder in the last elections in 2002.

Angela Merkel had not made any mistakes, had the facts at hand and was prepared to face up to the unpleasant realities of Germany's economic predicament, other commentators said.

Helmut Markwort of the weekly news magazine Focus noted that while Merkel looked forward, Schroeder spoke mainly about the past.

"Merkel spoke clearly and directly about the future, and brushed aside the polemics with ease," he said.

The debate produced no surprises. The opponents had staked out their positions weeks in advance.

The German economy with its 5 million unemployed and sluggish growth are at the centre of the elections and were the main focus of the TV duel.

Before the debate, polls showed Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and its Free Democratic (FDP) coalition partner, winning a slim majority in parliament with between 49 per cent and 51 per cent.

Schroeder's governing Social Democratic (SPD) coalition with the Greens is at 36 per cent to 39 per cent, according to the country's top six polling agencies.

German elections will be held September 18.

DPA

Subject: German news

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