Merkel’s center-right Union bloc, with Armin Laschet as chancellor candidate, has made small gains in the polls in recent weeks. But it remains narrowly behind the center-left Social Democrats, led by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. The Greens, who are presenting their own candidate for chancellor for the first time, are in third place, but could play kingmakers when it comes to forming a government.
Experts say one of the reasons this year’s German elections are closer and less predictable than usual is that the candidates are relative unknowns to most voters.
“It is certainly not the most boring election,” said Hendrik Traeger, political scientist at the University of Leipzig. “There were those in which Angela Merkel was the incumbent and it was just a matter of who she would govern with. “
This time, Merkel’s party has struggled to revitalize its traditional base, which has so far failed to come close to Laschet, the governor of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
“The key question is whether these voters will overcome Laschet’s hurdle and vote for the Union despite Laschet,” said Peter Matuschek of polling firm Forsa. “Or will they abstain from voting or even choose another party. “
The Union bloc will hold its last big rally in Munich, while the Social Democrats hold an event in the western city of Cologne. The Greens will organize their rally in the neighboring city of Düsseldorf.
Migration less worrying than in 2017
Climate change was cited as the most important issue by many in this election. Youth groups are planning to hold a large protest outside the chancellery on Friday to demand tougher action on climate change.
The economy and the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic also played an important role during the campaign, while migration was less of a concern to many voters than in 2017.
Foreign policy – largely absent from the campaign – became an issue in the last televised debate on Thursday, with the Greens calling for a tougher stance on China.
About 60.4 million Germans are eligible to vote for a new parliament on September 26. The more powerful party will seek to form a government coalition.
The pro-business Free Democrats are aiming for a seat in government this time, after halting coalition talks at the last minute after the 2017 election. The far-right Alternative for Germany is expected to succeed in the east, but other parties refuse to work with them. The Left Party remains a possible government partner for the Greens and the Social Democrats, a prospect that has alarmed the conservatives.
Election officials say many more people will vote by mail this year, due to the pandemic, but that should not significantly affect turnout.