German Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of failing to lead Europe’s largest economy in any firm direction as he began his closing arguments to voters three days before the election.
Joined by the SPD leadership, including party Chairman Sigmar Gabriel and parliamentary opposition leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz yesterday, Steinbrueck urged voters to unseat Merkel’s government on Sept. 22.
“It could be gone in three days,” Steinbrueck told a crowd of several thousand in the German capital, adding that Merkel has been a listless leader in four years. “Merkel is in a position to offer a direction, but doesn’t have any direction. Rather she drives around in circles.”
Polls have shown a boost for the SPD this month, following the campaign’s only televised debate on Sept. 1 in which Steinbrueck offered a spirited defense of the party’s social-justice agenda. Still, the SPD’s only chance to return to government may be in a so-called grand coalition under Merkel.
The SPD climbed a percentage point to 28 percent, 10 points behind Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc, according to an INSA poll published today. It was the latest survey to show both main parties falling short of a majority with their preferred coalition partners.
Touting the SPD’s program of social justice, including raising taxes on the wealthy and establishing a nationwide minimum wage, Steinbrueck said Merkel has fallen short in tackling issues such as retirement funding, infrastructure investment and financing for communities in four years.
“Please go vote,” Steinbrueck said in a circus-like tent assembled in Berlin’s east. The SPD has been assembling a voter-mobilization campaign over the summer, aiming to capture an estimated 10 million voters who once supported the SPD but have stayed home in the two past elections.
Throughout the campaign, the SPD has said it only wants to lead a coalition with the environmental Green Party, which dropped three points to 8 percent in the INSA poll, far short of a majority.
Steinbrueck also took aim at Merkel’s European policy, saying that the SPD would contrast as a “good neighbor.”
Merkel told supporters on Sept. 18 in Hamburg that she’ll stand as a bulwark against joint debt in the euro area if she’s elected to a third term and continue to extract conditions from indebted nations. She reiterated that message yesterday at a rally in the Hessian city of Fulda.
“Everybody must do their homework so that we can get stronger together,” Merkel said at the rally.
Both candidates will make their closing bids over the next two days, with Steinbrueck winding up the day before the election in Frankfurt and Merkel rallying voters in Berlin and then in her voting district, the Baltic city of Stralsund.
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