Berlin, Sept. 24 (BNA): With three days left until the German elections, the candidates participated in a final televised debate on Thursday that focused on differences in foreign and security policy.
After three previous debates that featured only the top three candidates for chancellor – from the CDU/CSU, the SPD and the Green Party – all parties currently represented in the Bundestag entered the final round.
Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate Olaf Schulz pledged to increase defense spending for the German military on Thursday and added that the most important foreign policy goal would be a strong and sovereign Europe.
The issue of China was also brought up, with Christian Lindner of the pro-business Liberal Democrats saying that “we have to represent our interests and values on an equal footing,” while Annalena Birbock of the Greens called for a “common European policy toward China.”
With Thursday’s poll showing a significant drop in the number of undecided voters, the pressure was on on outgoing Conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel as they tried to catch up with the SPD.
In a YouGov poll, 74 percent said they had made a final decision on who to vote for, 15 percent said they would make a final choice later, 9 percent did not specify, and 1 percent said they did not know.
Previous polls indicated that a third or even 40 percent of voters were undecided – a point this week that candidates including the Greens Annalena Barbock underscored.
Despite her party slipping to the far third, according to opinion polls, Barbock is still hoping for a record result for the Greens.
As for which party will vote, the numbers have changed little in the past week.
In a recent ZDF Politbarometer poll, the conservative bloc CDU/CSU narrowed the gap slightly with SPD, reaching 23 percent, although the SPD retained its lead, remaining unchanged at 25 percent.
The Green Party came in third with 16.5 percent, the Free Democratic Party took 11 percent, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) got 10, and the far-left Die Linke party got 6.
Although opinion polls are only a snapshot of opinions at the time of the poll and not a prediction of election results, the rankings of the major parties have not changed since late August.
The outcome is expected to be tough when Germans head to the polls on Sunday, with Merkel’s conservatives at risk of being ousted from power after nearly 16 years.
SPD chairman Norbert Walter Borgens made this point Thursday when he said he expected both the first and second parties to explore coalition options.
The government under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1976-80 is the most cited example: it included Schmidt’s Social Democratic Party – which came second in the election – and the Liberal Democrats.
When it comes to tripartite coalitions, Germans have to look further back to the times of the post-war political giant, Konrad Adenauer. Since 1949, he has led three successive coalitions of the conservative CDU/CSU bloc, the FDP and the Deutsche Partei (German Party).