Mark Chandler, Express, September 5, 2017
Angela Merkel’s smaller German election rivals have battled it out in a feisty live television debate vying to be the party that swings the balance of power.
After a good-natured debate between the Christian Democrats’ Angela Merkel and her main rival Martin Schulz on Sunday, leaders from the smaller parties faced-off in a series of far more heated exchanges.
The confrontation shows how close the race is for the smaller parties, who have the chance to shape the future of the German government when Angela Merkel will almost certainly need to build a coalition.
Polls show the Christian Democrats and sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) at a combined 38 per cent of the vote. So Mrs Merkel may need to form a coalition with the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and even the Greens.
But they are competing with the rising Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Left Party at the other end of the spectrum, with all four parties polling at between eight and 11 per cent.
The claws were out during the debate, with the Left Party leader Dietmar Bartsch blasting his Green counterpart Katrin Göring-Eckardt at one stage, telling her: “Everything you’re saying is wrong. It’s a bald-faced lie.”
Alexander Dobrindt, Transport Minister of the CSU, came under fire from all sides as he was challenged on the controversy around diesel vehicles being banned from Germany’s cities.
Mr Dobrindt tried to pin the blame on the Greens for the scandal, springing from cities failing to meet their emissions levels and car firms attempting to circumvent the rules.
But Ms Göring-Eckardt was greeted with applause as she hit back: “It was your responsibility to undertake regular controls.
“The driving bans are yours because you didn’t ensure that the rules were respected.”
A second confrontation saw them joined by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the centrist Free Democratic Party (FDP) continuing the hot-tempered tone.
But both debates avoided discussing pressing issues affecting the wider EU bloc including Brexit and reform of the eurozone.
The federal election takes place on September 24 when the make-up of the 19th Bundestag will be decided.
If Mrs Merkel doesn’t go for a multi-party coalition, her other option is to join forces with Mr Schulz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) to form a grand coalition.
Under electoral law, parties must gain at least five per cent of second votes to gain seats if they fail to win under the first-past-the-post system.