Germany votes with Merkel set for third termAgence France-Presse . Berlin / New Age Online
Germany votes Sunday with Chancellor Angela Merkel poised to win a third term, making her Europe's only major leader to survive its financial crisis but potentially forced into governing with her main rivals.
After shepherding Europe's top economy through the debt turmoil, Merkel emerged more popular than ever due to her motherly reassurance as the crisis felled leaders in France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Pollsters suggest that voters will re-elect the 59-year-old, whose nickname ‘Mutti’ (Mummy) can seem incongruous with her other often-used description as the world's most powerful woman.
But the burning question will be with whom she will govern.
‘Rarely was it so close. Merkel's coalition only has a razor-thin majority in the polls,’ the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily said, adding that many of the near 62 million voters only make up their minds at the last minute.
Merkel boasts her current centre-right coalition has been Germany's most successful since reunification in 1990, enjoying a robust economy and a jobless rate of less than seven percent.
But her stated aim for her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to stay in power with its junior partners, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), hinges on the smaller party's unpredictable fortunes.
‘The continued governing by this coalition remains uncertain,’ Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist from Berlin's Free University said.
If the alliance fails to rally a ruling majority, Merkel could be forced back into the arms of her traditional rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she governed in a loveless ‘grand coalition’ during her first term.
Under the watchful eye of Germany's European partners, a new eurosceptic party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) could also prove a wild card, either by clawing enough support to send MPs into parliament or wooing disgruntled centre-right voters away.
"For Chancellor Merkel the eurosceptics are becoming a problem," Spiegel Online commented on the eve of the vote.
Supporters of stronger stimulus measures have pinned their hopes on the SPD whose gaffe-prone candidate Peer Steinbrueck, 66, has struggled to score points and still trailed Merkel's conservatives by 13 points in the last opinion poll.
Polls open at 0600 GMT, with initial television estimates expected shortly after booths close at 1600 GMT.
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