Merkel heckled at last election rally in Munich
After three terms in office, polls suggest CDU leader is on course for fourth term
German chancellor Angela Merkel at a final election rally in Munich. She was heckled by hundreds of far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) protesters. Photograph: Reuters
The Oktoberfest had serious competition on Friday evening as chancellor Angela Merkel popped up in Munich for a final election push before Sunday’s federal election.
However, the German leader had serious competition of her own on the central Marienplatz as hundreds of protesters exploded with rage when she appeared, bellowing “Merkel must go”.
“One thing is sure, we don’t shape the future with whistling and shouting,” said a hoarse chancellor, stumbling over her words and struggling to be heard over the din.
After 12 years and three terms in office, polls suggest the CDU leader is on course for a fourth term. Yet judging from her thunderous expression during her 40-minute address, four terms is enough. That would make Munich not just the last election rally of this campaign, but of her 27-year political career.
Despite a 15-point lead in polls, the leader of the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) left nothing to chance, facing down a few hundred protesters in the crowd of 8,000 Munich locals.
With 63 per cent of voters telling ZDF’s polling agency on Friday they had now made up their minds, the 63-year-old politician said: “This election is not yet decided; the CDU doesn’t have a single vote to give away.”
Some 61.5 million Germans are called to cast their vote on Sunday, with first exit polls immediately after ballot boxes are opened at 6pm (5pm Irish time). The first official – provisional – result is expected early on Monday morning.
A final opinion poll for ZDF public television has Dr Merkel’s CDU alliance with Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) on 36 per cent, down five points on 2013.
The German leader can expect no vote from hundreds of far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) Marienplatz protesters like Marian Beck. The 57-year-old Munich women accused the chancellor of “destroying my life and my land” by allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany over the last two years.
“I live near an asylum home and, while I’m not the youngest, I am constantly being harassed,” she said . “Last time it was a woman from Togo.”
As the AfD protesters bellowed on, local nun Sr Agnes remonstrated with them. “Have you no better, civilised way to protest?” she shouted. The spittle-flecked AfD protesters’ shouted reply: “Merkel out, borders closed.”
Dr Merkel’s challenger Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is braced for the worst on Sunday, with the ZDF poll predicted his party’s worst ever result of 21.5 per cent.
In a final appearance he accused the German leader of dodging debate on looming challenges by running a “sleeping pill” election.
“I think our election campaign impressed people,” said Mr Schulz, after clocking up 40,000km on the road since August. “People see that the SPD is unified like seldom before in the last decades.”
However, people were less than enthused for a campaign that combined leftist messages with centrist content. Given Germany’s steady economy and low jobless rate, the SPD struggled to ignite a mood for change among voters.
In Munich, Dr Merkel used her last election rally to warn voters of the possibility of a SPD-Green alliance with the far-left Linke. “We don’t need experiments, we need stability and security,” she said.
Her speech, ramping up a law and order message, went down well with Bavarian supporters and her CSU hosts.
Two years ago Bavaria was the front line of the refugee crisis. Candidate Joachim Hermann, of the local CSU, thanked her for “making clear we will continue to impose checks on our borders as long as our security requires it”.
Given the protesters’ bellowing, it is no surprise that Dr Merkel has ruled out co-operating with the AfD. Just four years after it emerged in the euro crisis, it has tapped immigration concerns and could finish in third place.
The ZDF has the party on 11 per cent, one point ahead of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), with the left-wing Greens and Left on 8.5 and 8 per cent respectively.
In a taste of stormy times to come in the next Bundestag, Dr Merkel’s chief-of-staff Peter Altmaier got into trouble for suggesting it would be better for people not to vote at all than to vote for the AfD.
One of the AfD’s lead candidates, Alice Weidel, attacked his comment as revealing a “disturbed relationship to democracy”.
“Altmaier’s declaration is tantamount to admitting political bankruptcy,” she said.
In a final online push Dr Merkel’s CDU published a campaign advert with a slogan worthy of Samuel Beckett himself. “Für eine Zukunft, die gerne kommen kann” or “For a future that can come gladly.” But as Beckett once almost put it: the future came, having no alternative.