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(left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspects vegetables at a harvest festival as she tours the city of Lauterbach on the Baltic Island of Ruegen. (right) Martin Schulz (centre), leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and candidate for Chancellor, and vice-president of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) Ulla Schmidt (left) hold a present as Schulz wife Inge Schulz (right) looks on during an electoral meeting on the eve of the general elections in Aachen, western Germany.—AFP
(left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspects vegetables at a harvest festival as she tours the city of Lauterbach on the Baltic Island of Ruegen. (right) Martin Schulz (centre), leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and candidate for Chancellor, and vice-president of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) Ulla Schmidt (left) hold a present as Schulz wife Inge Schulz (right) looks on during an electoral meeting on the eve of the general elections in Aachen, western Germany.—AFP

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, poised to win a fourth term in Sunday’s election, urged supporters on Saturday to keep fighting for votes with a third of the electorate still undecided.

Merkel’s call was echoed by her centre-left challenger Martin Schulz of the Social Democrats, now in an unwieldy “grand coalition” with her conservatives.

Merkel is widely expected to cruise to re-election with the Social Democrats trailing by double digits but the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) could emerge as the third largest party, complicating the make-up of her next coalition.

A new INSA poll published by Bild newspaper showed declining support for both Merkel’s conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 per cent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 per cent.

The anti-immigrant AfD, meanwhile, gained two percentage points to 13 per cent, which would make it the first far-right party to enter parliament since the end of World War Two.

Merkel, speaking to supporters in Berlin before heading to her home constituency in northern Germany, called for a final push to drum up votes by focusing on conservatives’ commitment to support for families, a pledge to avoid tax increases and a focus on increasing security in Germany.

(left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspects vegetables at a harvest festival as she tours the city of Lauterbach on the Baltic Island of Ruegen. (right) Martin Schulz (centre), leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and candidate for Chancellor, and vice-president of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) Ulla Schmidt (left) hold a present as Schulz wife Inge Schulz (right) looks on during an electoral meeting on the eve of the general elections in Aachen, western Germany.—AFP
(left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel inspects vegetables at a harvest festival as she tours the city of Lauterbach on the Baltic Island of Ruegen. (right) Martin Schulz (centre), leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and candidate for Chancellor, and vice-president of the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) Ulla Schmidt (left) hold a present as Schulz wife Inge Schulz (right) looks on during an electoral meeting on the eve of the general elections in Aachen, western Germany.—AFP

The Christian Democratic leader also lauded the role of the European Union in providing stability in “a troubled world”. “We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people today. Many are still undecided,” said Merkel, who then walked the pedestrian zone in the northern city of Stralsund and led a crowd in practicing CPR in Greifswald.

Merkel said it was important to focus on social justice issues but also to show how conservatives had ensured the strength of Europe’s largest and richest economy.

First elected in 2005, Merkel remains popular in Germany but has regularly faced jeers and whistles from left- and right-wing demonstrators during her speeches across Germany — a decided change from her last campaign in 2013. At a campaign rally in Munich on Friday, Merkel defended her 2015 decision to admit about one million asylum seekers as a humanitarian necessity but pledged to prevent a repeat of that crisis by doing more to fund programmes in migrants’ home countries to dissuade people from emigrating.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2017