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Merkel, Schulz reach out to undecided voters as far-right surge looms

The German Chancellor and her Social Democrat challenger say every vote counts, as the Alternative for Germany (AfD) looks set to become the most far-right party in parliament for 60 years.

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Merkel, Schulz reach out to undecided voters as far-right surge looms

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew thousands of people to the Bavarian city of Munich on Friday, for one of her last rallies before Sunday’s general election.

Merkel, who’s expected to clinch a fourth term, strained her voice to be heard despite jeers from hundreds of left- and right-wing hecklers, and delivered a speech focused on stability and security.

“We need every vote so that we can continue to live well and to enjoy living in Germany. That’s why we don’t rest on our laurels, on the fact that we managed to cut unemployment in half over the past 12 years, that we’ve managed to create more than five million new jobs, but we know that we live in the 21st century — a time where we need to always find new answers to new challenges,” Merkel said.


Merkel’s main challenger, the Social Democrat Martin Schulz, called on undecided voters to trust and support him, saying high voter turnout could help offset the rise of the far-right.

In Berlin, Schulz said that if members of the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, gain enough votes to enter parliament, “then the language of the gravediggers of democracy will enter the parliament again for the first time since 1945.”

Schulz, a former president of the European Parliament, has struggled to gain traction with a campaign centred on economic and social justice.


Room for surprise

Pre-election polls give Merkel’s conservative Union bloc a lead of 13 to 17 points over the centre-left Social Democrats.

Four parties compete for third place, with support between 7 and 12 percent: the Free Democrats, who look set to return to parliament after a four-year absence; the Greens, the Left Party and the AfD.

AfD has won support since the 2015 migration crisis with its anti-immigrant rhetoric and is now running around 11 percent, above the 5 percent threshold required to enter parliament.

And there’s room for surprise, as recent polls suggest close to 40 percent of voters still don’t know who to vote for on Sunday.