The main candidates for the post of Chancellor Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrueck met in TV debates three weeks before the parliamentary elections in Germany. German media reported that the first round of debate ended in a “tie” because it was hard to determine the winner.
According to the estimates of the statistical service Forsa, 44 percent of Germans believe that Merkel won the duel, while another 43 percent consider the Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck to be the winner. For him the TV debate was an opportunity to reduce the 30 percent lag from the “Iron Frau,” which was indicated by the previous survey of the ZDF.
Great part of the debate was dedicated to the internal political problems. Interestingly, both candidates expressed unanimous position on the issue of the situation in Syria: they believe that an international mandate is needed to give military response to the use of chemical weapons by the regime of Bashar al-Asad.
Left-of-center Steinbrueck took the opportunity to criticize Merkel’s actions on the EU crisis. “I would choose a different strategy for dealing with the crisis – and this is one of the fundamental issues. Of course, we had to consolidate public spending, but not in such lethal dose for the countries that were in need of assistance,” Steinbrueck appealed to the austerity program in the countries of Southern Europe that Merkel introduced in order to overcome the financial crisis. “We become more aware of the fact that such programs can be devastating,” continued Social Democrat. “We also need to take care of economic stimulus for those countries. You can call it the Marshall Plan No. 2,” weekly Der Spiegel quoted Steinbrueck’s statement.
Merkel, instead, focused on economic success achieved by the coalition during their stay in power. She stressed that the unemployment rates in Germany dropped to the lowest level ever: “You all know me, you know what I strive for and what I do. The past few years have been successful in Germany and I would like to make the next years equally successful,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Merkel’s speech. “I want Germany, as the Europe’s largest economy, to continue being a mediator and a good partner especially now, in times of crisis.”
Candidates for the post of the head of the German government had an opportunity to present to the voters their own vision of the main challenges facing the country. However, as the weekly Der Spiegel noted, “Angela Merkel presented poorly in the debate, while Steinbrueck did no better than her. Voters deserve more than these ‘exhausted’ events.” The attention of German tabloid was drawn to Merkel’s piece of jewelry – a necklace in the colors of the German flag. Bild wrote about this curious fact: “the necklace even got a personal account and many followers on Twitter.”
TV debate was broadcast by four leading TV channels in Germany and was watched by nearly 15 million viewers live. However, experts say that the debate has no decisive influence on the election process.