German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken on her main election rival, Peer Steinbrueck of the centre-left SDP party in a live TV debate.
Both were grilled by four journalists and the debate was watched by an estimated 17.5 million people.
Newspapers and viewers declared there to be no clear winner, with neither politician dealing a killer blow.
The pair clashed over the Euro, tax policy and US spying but delivered few surprises.
Steinbrueck accused Merkel of causing misery by imposing austerity on southern Europe.
She pointed out that everything she had put through ““You voted for.”
Merkel is currently in a coalition with the centre-right Free Democrats (FDP.)
Rainer Bruederle, the main candidate for the FDP said after the debate: “Once again since last night it is clear to me that SPD is no alternative. Bossiness is not political model. The chancellor has described the accomplishments of the Christian-Liberal coalition at best.”
The leaders of the smaller parties will have their own election debate
Steinbrueck has said he refuses to be in a coalition with Merkel’s Christian Democrats and would prefer to go into coalition with the Green Party.
Head of the Green Party, Claudia Roth, gave her opinion on the televised debate: “The duel has shown that everything is possible, nothing is decided. It showed that the Greens are needed, there was a lot of old fashioned ideas in the debate. Ecology, energy turnaround, environment protection, climate protection were not even mentioned.”
And then there was the necklace.
Made of long metal beads in the red, yellow and black colours of the German flag, it was all anyone was tweeting about. It even has it’s own twitter account.
Studies show that up to five percent of German voters make their decision based on the TV debate.
With just three weeks to go until the election, polls put the chancellor in the lead but still needing a coalition partner, meaning the final outcome of the election is still uncertain