Germany's Merkel, Steinmeier in live TV debate

Merkel goes head to head with Steinmeier in a TV debate later on Sunday which may help determine the outcome of Germany's election on Sept. 27.

Germany's Merkel, Steinmeier in live TV debate

Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel goes head to head with Social Democrat (SPD) challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier in a TV debate later on Sunday which may help determine the outcome of Germany's election on Sept. 27.

With the SPD trailing Merkel's conservatives in the polls by 11-14 points, the onus is on Steinmeier to land a punch on Merkel and win over undecided voters. Analysts say up to 40 percent have still to make up their mind.

"The TV debate is Steinmeier's big chance because he will reach millions of people," political scientist Karl-Rudolf Korte told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Around 20 million people, or a quarter of the population, is expected to tune in to the 90-minute U.S.-style clash shown on four channels which starts at 8.30pm (1830 GMT).

However, aware they may end up having to share power again, Merkel and Steinmeier have largely avoided personal attacks and the campaign has been less combative than usual.

Der Spiegel reported that Steinmeier had drawn up a 10-point plan for the withdrawal of the roughly 4,200 German troops deployed in Afghanistan by 2013. That could prove popular as most Germans oppose the war.

International and domestic criticism of an airstrike called in by German troops in northern Afghanistan this month that killed scores of civilians, has catapulted the issue into the election campaign.

The TV debate attracted 21 million viewers four years ago when then SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder succeeding in closing the gap on Merkel in opinion polls and nearly caught her in the election.

But with neither Merkel nor Steinmeier known for their charisma, one TV channel has opted to capitalise on the lack of interest in debate and is broadcasting The Simpsons movie instead.


Reuters

Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2009, 16:15
Add Comment