GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to  Armin Laschet, the ruling party’s candidate to succeed her after elections next month, before a meeting of their party.—AFP
GERMAN Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to Armin Laschet, the ruling party’s candidate to succeed her after elections next month, before a meeting of their party.—AFP

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s struggling would-be heir on Monday hit back at suggestions that a center-left rival is better qualified for the job after a televised debate four weeks ahead of Germany’s election failed to give him a clear breakthrough.

Armin Laschet, the chancellor candidate from Merkel’s center-right Union bloc, insisted that he was not at all frustrated by a poll following Sunday night’s debate. It showed most viewers picking center-left Social Democrat Olaf Scholz as the winner of the event, followed by environmentalist Green contender Annalena Baerbock and then Laschet.

The mass-circulation Bild daily’s front page proclaimed it a clear victory for Scholz on TV and a debate debacle for Laschet.

The race for Germany’s Sept 26 parliamentary election, which has been marked by missteps first by Baerbock and then Laschet, is too close to call. Recent polls show Laschet’s Union bloc which long enjoyed a lead level with or even slightly behind Scholz’s long-moribund Social Democrats, with the Greens a few points back.

Merkel, Germany’s leader since 2005, chose not to run. She said nearly three years ago that she wouldn’t seek a fifth term.

The experienced and unflappable Scholz, the vice chancellor and finance minister in Merkel’s outgoing coalition government, has seen his personal ratings rise in surveys that suggest many voters aren’t impressed with the choices for chancellor that they face.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021

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