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German chancellor candidates square off in TV election debate

German chancellor candidates square off in TV election debate

German chancellor candidates square off in TV election debate

The three candidates vying for the position of German chancellor exchanged blows during a TV election debate on Sunday night. Despite receiving a handful of blows from his conservative rival Armin Laschet, it was the SPD’s frontrunner Olaf Scholz who viewers declared the winner. 

Laschet, Baerbock and Scholz face off in TV debate

With the German federal election looming at the end of the month, things are heating up on the campaign trail - and this tension was palpable in Sunday night’s heated debate. In the second of three televised appearances, Armin Laschet of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) sought to boost his floundering campaign by attacking his coalition partner, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats (SPD). 

Laschet took swipes at Scholz’s track record on tackling money laundering and corruption - in light of recent financial scandals which saw the Federal Finance and Justice Ministries raided last week - and his refusal to rule out an alliance with the far-left Linke party.

Meanwhile, Green candidate Annalena Baerbock scored points when the debate turned to climate issues, accusing both Scholz and Laschet of being more concerned with assigning blame than finding solutions. She further criticised the two largest parties for their unambitious climate targets, arguing that Germany needed to bring forward the coal power phase-out to 2030. 

Olaf Scholz declared winner of second German election debate

In a snap poll after the 90-minute debate, Olaf Scholz was declared the winner - as he was in the first debate - while Annalena Baerbock was deemed the most likeable. Armin Laschet, meanwhile, failed to deliver any real smarting blows on either of his opponents. His coming bottom in the snap poll will likely sharpen unease within his party, which has undergone a nosedive in the polls since Laschet was declared the new CDU leader back in January.

Although support for the CDU / CSU alliance was already waning due to the coronavirus pandemic, Laschet’s gaffe-peppered campaign has done little to help matters. Already accused of mishandling the pandemic in his own state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in July he was caught on camera laughing during a visit to a town largely destroyed by catastrophic flooding. Despite Merkel recently stepping in to endorse Laschet as her choice for successor, his fortunes have not improved much in recent weeks. 

By early September, his party had slipped in the polls to a record low of 20 percent, with Scholz’s SPD ahead on 25 percent. These figures have remained relatively static since. With just under two weeks to go until the federal election on September 26, the Greens are currently polling at 16 percent, the pro-business FDP party at 12 percent, and the far-right Alternative for Germany party at 11 percent. 

A third and final televised debate is scheduled on September 19, to be broadcast by ProSieben, Sat.1 and Kabel eins. 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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