Merkel era to end as voters gear up to pick new government on Sunday
- As Germany’s top parties were set to hold final rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Fridays for Future youth marches made the case that the political class has let down the younger generation.
Candidates to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany’s weekend election were hitting the hustings on Friday in a last-ditch bid for votes in a tight race, even as tens of thousands of activists including Greta Thunberg rallied to demand climate action.
As Germany’s top parties were set to hold final rallies ahead of Sunday’s vote, the Fridays for Future youth marches made the case that the political class has let down the younger generation. “The political parties haven’t taken the climate catastrophe seriously enough,” Luisa Neubauer, who runs the group’s German chapter, said.
She said Germany, as one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases, had an outsize responsibility to set an example, with time running out to reverse destructive trends. “That is why we are calling this the election of a century,” she said.
The race has boiled down to a two-way contest between Social Democrat Olaf Scholz, the centrist finance minister, and Armin Laschet from Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. Both were set to address crowds later in Cologne and Munich, respectively.
Polls give Scholz a small lead of about 26% over Laschet at around 22%, with the candidate from the ecologist Greens, Annalena Baerbock, trailing in the mid-teens. Despite the urgency of the climate issue for a majority of Germans, particularly in the aftermath of deadly floods in western Germany in July, this has failed to translate into strong support for the relatively inexperienced Baerbock.
Baerbock, who joined one of the Fridays for Future rallies in Cologne, told Die Welt newspaper that she hoped the protests would give her party “tailwinds” heading into the vote. “The next government has to be a climate government - that will only work with a strong Green party.”
Merkel, who has been in power since 2005, plans to stand down as leader of Europe’s biggest economy after Sunday’s election, although she will remain chancellor during coalition talks.