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Germany’s election marketing campaign is just too quick to cut back the SPD’s lead

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Construction workers set up a barrier in front of an election campaign poster for the CDU leader and Chancellor candidate Armin Laschet.

JOHN MACDOUGALL | AFP | Getty Images

Only a few days left until the general election on Sunday, the latest poll shows that the gap between the two top candidates is narrowing.

While the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) is still ahead, a new survey by Insa for the German newspaper Bild has shown that the gap is narrowing. The SPD now only leads the conservatives by three percentage points.

The center-left SPD has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since August, with Chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz doing well in the election campaign. The party’s manifesto, which includes left-wing tax and social policy, a pro-EU stance and flexible rules on the debt brake, has also appealed to voters who want a change in the status quo when Merkel leaves office.

The poll showed that the SPD received 25% of the vote, compared to 22% for the alliance of CDU / CSU, the ruling party of the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by 15% for the Green Party.

It suggests that the election is too short, although German voters tended to favor stability in the past elections, so that the SPD’s lead on election day could be lost.

Nevertheless, the SPD politician Scholz, currently Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor, seems to be more popular with the public than his CDU / CSU rival Armin Laschet, who was elected Merkel’s successor at the beginning of the year.

Debate wins

Three television debates between the top candidates Scholz, Laschet and the Green candidate Annalena Baerbock have repeatedly chosen Scholz as the winner of the broad and often combative discussions on topics such as climate protection, security and taxes.

The final debate on Sunday evening was no exception, with a quick poll that found Scholz the clear winner (although 42% of viewers thought so, according to a Forsa poll) while Laschet got 27% and Baerbock 25%.

Perhaps a signal for the coalition negotiations after the election (neither party is likely to get enough seats to rule alone), both Scholz and Baerbock indicated in the debate that it would be positive if the CDU / CSU were to become opposition and not Part of a new coalition. However, both indicated that they were willing to negotiate with all parties except the right-wing extremist alternative for Germany.

Which party will become part of this future coalition government is a matter of concern for experts in the run-up to the vote, as there does not seem to be an obvious and easily accessible coalition.

Various tripartite formations are discussed. For example a “green-red-red” alliance of the Greens with the SPD and the radical left party Die Linke or perhaps a “traffic light” coalition made up of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP.

“The interesting story about this election is how unpredictable it has been in recent weeks to determine who will lead the country after the election,” Gerlinde Groitl, junior professor of international politics and transatlantic relations at the University of Regensburg, told on Monday CNBC.

“The FDP really wants to be in a coalition government, but it has to fill various gaps with the Social Democrats – they are far apart in terms of tax policy, social policy, etc. – and we really have a few coalition options, probably on the table from next Sunday.”

It is also questionable whether the left-wing Die Linke (which has called for the abolition of the western military alliance NATO) would participate in a coalition, a prospect that could be inedible for many German voters who are moving towards the center or the center-right .

In fact, the CDU / CSU candidate Laschet used the TV debates as an opportunity to stir up public concern about the possible inclusion of the left in a future government. Neither Scholz nor Baerbock have ruled out a collaboration with Die Linke, although Scholz has said that every party in a German coalition would have to commit to NATO.

Groitl noted that the SPD had moved “all the way to the left”, but that the Scholz party candidate was more on the conservative side of the spectrum within the party and that more gaps had to be closed before such a left-wing alliance was formed.

She predicted “tough negotiations” in all coalition talks after this election, which could “drag on for a while”.

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