Race wide open as Germany votes for post-Merkel era
The Germans voted yesterday in one of the most unpredictable elections in the country’s recent history, with the conservatives of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in a close race for her crown as she prepares to leave the political scene.
The election puts an end to Merkel’s 16 years in power and places Germany – synonymous with stability – in a new period of uncertainty.
Opinion polls have shown chancellery race heading for ‘photo finish’, with conservative alliance of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union Bavaria (CSU) at around 23 percent, just behind the SPD at 25 percent – well within the margin of error.
“We will certainly have surprises on Sunday,” said Nico Siegel, head of polling company Infratest Dimap.
Despite the SPD’s lead in the polls, a victory for the CDU-CSU alliance “cannot be ruled out,” he said. “The race for first place is wide open.
About 40 percent of Germany’s 60.4 million eligible voters said they were undecided, while the same proportion voted by mail, including Merkel herself.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was among the first voters yesterday, saying that “to vote is to live democracy” while voting in Berlin.
The two men scrambling for the top post – German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz, 63, of the SPD, and Armin Laschet, 60, of the CDU-CSU – voted in their respective hometowns from Potsdam and Aachen.
Laschet said “every vote counts” in an election that will determine “Germany’s direction in the years to come”, while Scholz said he hoped the good weather was “a good sign” for his party .
At a polling station in Aachen, voter Ursula Becker, 62, said: “This year it’s pretty exciting to know who it will be, and it’s always important to know who’s ruling.
In Berlin, Hagen Bartels, 64, said he expected the “surprise that the biggest party is not the SPD, but probably the CDU”.
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