The long awaited German election debate was finally happened yesterday evening on national TV. Half of Germany tuned in to see what had been announced as fireworks but mostly went by without a hiccup. Mrs. Merkel has been on the job for 12 years now, and it is clearly showing. Her challenger, leftist Martin Schulz of the Socialist SPD, did bring up the one thing that had made a dent in Merkel’s popularity, her immigration policy which many Germans are blaming for the making Germany unsafe and a target for terrorist attacks.
Last week already there was a first debate between the smaller parties which we discussed here:
On the issue of the immigration crisis, the interviewer Claus Strunz asked Merkel:“It may have been a dramatic situation, but why didn’t you close the borders again afterward?”
Merkel asks Strunz what the alternatives were: “What should we have done, use water cannons against refugees?”
The first 45 minutes of the debate were all about Islam, the refugee crisis and the integration of other cultures with the German one. Of course, the longer these issues dragged on, the worse it was for Merkel.
As to the controversial EU-Turkey refugee deal, Mrs. Merkel defended with: “I still think it was the right solution”.
Also on foreign policy, Mr. Schulz was on the attack. Mrs. Merkel has gotten too sweet on Donald Trump, he said and should do something to rein in this crazy man from Washington. As to the North Korean crisis, Mr. Schulz proposed that the world should discuss this without the American President.
A notable quote came at the end of the round when Turkey was discussed. Merkel said that she would call off accession talks with Turkey as she doesn’t see it fit for the country to join if they want to reinstate the death penalty. This is dangerous ground to tread as Turkey is, just as Germany, a Nato member.
Germany goes to the polls in three weeks from now, on 24 September. Merkel is expected to win, but analysts say that she may have to form a coalition with the left, which will get more voters to the nationalist right-wing party Alternative Fur Deutschland, who will normally enter the parliament, breaking the 5% minimum threshold.