Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz face off in TV debate

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz face off in TV debate

Today, Germany’s chancellor and her main challenger face each other in the first and only televised debate ahead of the

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Photo: European Parliament

Today, Germany’s chancellor and her main challenger face each other in the first and only televised debate ahead of the September 24 election.

Many observers stylised the encounter as Schulz’s last chance to close the gap with Merkel, whose centre-right CDU leads Schulz’s centre-left SPD by about 15% according to the latest polls.

The problem with that view is that in Germany’s multi-party system, general elections are—unlike US presidential elections for instance—not decided by a showdown between the two candidates of the leading parties but rather by the appeal of the parties themselves.

Even if the TV debate swayed some of the many undecided voters, matters are complicated for Schulz; he has to attack Merkel to gain ground, but since his SPD has governed Germany together with the chancellor’s CDU for the last four years, his options are limited.

Unless Mrs Merkel makes an error of near-historic dimensions, it’s all but certain that the new parliament will make her chancellor for the fourth time. The question remains who will be her junior partner and what will become of Mr Schulz.