By Stefan J. Bos
Traditional music awaited Merkel at a gathering in Munich, where she backed her center-right party’s candidate Armin Laschet to succeed her.
She praised him as a “bridge-builder who will get people on board” at a CDU rally. “For Germany to remain stable, Armin Laschet must become chancellor and (the Union) must be the strongest party,” she told enthusiastic supporters. She added that the CDU and its affiliated CSU must remain the strongest political force.
“So, vote for either of these parties, so Germany remains stable, we continue to govern, and Amin Lascher becomes German chancellor. He would most likely say ‘God bless you’ because he doesn’t want to make mistakes,” Merkel stressed.
She warned that in her words, “if we get it wrong now, everything that was achieved in 16 years could be squandered.”
Yet the election was too close to call, with polls putting Merkel’s center-right almost neck and neck with the center-left SPD. The environmentalist Greens also are eyeing at least a share of power.
Merkel, who remains personally popular after steering Germany through a string of crises, announced in 2018 that she wouldn’t go for a fifth term.
That set up the first election since West Germany’s initial vote in 1949 in which there is no incumbent chancellor seeking re-election.
About 60.4 million people, in the nation of 83 million, are eligible to elect the new parliament, the Bundestag, comprising at least 598 seats, and usually more.
There were many issues at the forefront of voters’ minds, including what politicians view as dangerous climate change.
On Friday, tens of thousands of young activists marched throughout the country to demand more significant action to tackle global warming. Climate change has been a central theme in the election campaign.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg told crowds in Berlin that no political party was doing nearly enough to fight what she calls “the climate crisis.”
Young candidates for parliament seem to agree, including Anna Emmendorffer of the Green Party. “We need to implement a climate protection government after Sunday. And that includes an immense expansion of the renewables [energy] capacities and the coal phase-out by 2030. And it also includes that our whole economy must be transformed towards a carbon-neutral economy,” she argued.
“And that is only possible with a massive amount of renewable energies, for instance, also to produce green hydrogen which we need for the industry, for example,” Emmendorffer added.
Other issues concerning voters are migration and the economy.
The outcome of the vote in Europe’s biggest economy is therefore closely watched by allies on the continent and around the world.