Merkel Warns Germans Against Ceding Political Center in Election

  • Polls suggest Merkel’s CDU, rival SPD both slipping in polls
  • Chancellor urges base to turn out in Sunday’s national vote

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Chancellor Angela Merkel urged German voters to keep the political center strong in Sunday’s election, suggesting concern about polls showing gains by the left and right fringes at the expense of the two biggest parties.

Merkel, the front-runner ahead of the vote in Europe’s biggest economy, told broadcaster RTL on Tuesday that her Christian Democratic Union stands for middle-of-the-road policies. “I’m hoping for a high turnout and a decisive vote in favor of strengthening the center,” she said.

As investors anticipate a fourth term for Merkel and focus on her coalition options, her CDU-led bloc slipped 1 percentage point to 36 percent in a weekly Forsa poll after hovering around 40 percent for most of the summer. The Social Democrats, Merkel’s coalition partner and main opponent, were steady in second place at 23 percent, though other polls put the SPD’s support as low as 20 percent.

For insight on how Germany’s election may shape the euro area, click here.

The risk of eroding support for mainstream parties was underscored by an INSA poll this week that put backing for the anti-capitalist Left party and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany, which blames Merkel for a record refugee influx, at 11 percent each. In contrast, an Allensbach poll published Tuesday suggests that Merkel and the pro-market Free Democrats, with a combined 47.5 percent, are within reach of forming a coalition.

For an interactive guide to possible coalition hookups, click here.

Other polls suggest the FDP, a traditional ally of Merkel’s bloc and her second-term partner, may struggle to win enough votes to allow a hookup. That might open the door to a three-way coalition drawing in the Greens, or a rerun of Merkel’s alliance with the SPD.

“I believe that the strength of our society lies in the center,” Merkel told RTL.

A historic loss for the SPD, led by former European Parliament president Martin Schulz, would complicate Merkel’s choices if the SPD opted to go into opposition rather than serve as her junior partner for another term.

With less than a week of campaigning left, Schulz sought to sharpen his attack during a town hall on Monday, taking a tougher line on the German auto industry and saying he’d respond more forcefully to U.S. President Donald Trump.

“On this notion that there are no differences –- oh yes, there are differences, and you can vote on them on the 24th,” Schulz told the forum hosted by broadcaster ARD in Luebeck.

Schulz has strained to counter the accusation that he hasn’t presented a sharp enough alternative to Merkel. In the campaign’s sole televised debate two weeks ago, Schulz failed to make a breakthrough. Merkel has dismissed his demand to hold another one.

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