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Why Merkel Re-Election Bid Matters Beyond Germany

Ready for round four.

Ready for round four.

Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Angela Merkel, Germany’s first woman chancellor and the first from the formerly communist east, is seeking a record-tying fourth term in elections on Sunday. While polls suggest the vote is unlikely to have the drama of the French election in May, there’s potentially even more at stake: Merkel, the European Union’s longest-serving leader, has become the face of the bloc in confronting challenges including Brexit, Russia and disagreements with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The main challenger to her Christian Democratic Union is the Social Democratic Party, her current coalition partner. Days before the vote, there aren’t many who think that Social Democratic candidate Martin Schulz stands a chance of ousting Merkel as chancellor. Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, may have peaked in March, when the Social Democrats jumped in the polls to a near-tie with Merkel’s bloc, which consists of the CDU and its Bavarian ally, the Christian Social Union. In recent polling, the Social Democrats have trailed Merkel’s CDU-CSU by an average of about 14 percentage points. One wildcard to watch will be the performance of the anti-immigration, anti-EU Alternative for Germany party, or AfD.