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Germany election: SPD's Olaf Scholz wins latest television debate

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By Alessio Dellanna  with AP, AFP
German general election candidates Olaf Scholz, left, Annalena Baerbock, center, and Armin Laschet, right, in a televised debate - Sunday Sept. 19, 2021
German general election candidates Olaf Scholz, left, Annalena Baerbock, center, and Armin Laschet, right, in a televised debate - Sunday Sept. 19, 2021   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Germany's vice-chancellor and Social Democrat leader Olaf Scholz has won the latest television debate ahead of the country's general election on September 26

The clash against the other two main candidates for the chancellorship -- CDU's Armin Laschet and Green Party's Annalena Baerbock -- was the penultimate one before Sunday's vote.

Scholz got 42% of the audience's vote following the debate.

He is currently leading the opinion polls with around 25 to 26% of the vote, closely followed by Laschet, polling at around 20 to 22%, with the Greens third-placed with 15 to 17%.

However, 40% of voters haven't chosen their candidate yet, according to the Allensbach Institute.

Laschet attacks Scholz on tax increases and minimum wage plans

The three candidates bidding to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel clashed mainly over taxes and social spending.

CDU's Laschet criticised Scholz's plans for a €12 minimum wage and tax increases for the richer.

The SPD leader however maintained his low-key demeanour as he pledged to relieve burdens on lower-income earners, while “someone who earns as much as I do pays a bit more in taxes.”

Laschet however had his sharpest exchanges with The Greens' Annalena Baerbock, who urged for child poverty to be reduced and advocated an earlier coal phase-out, saying the current government hasn't done enough to fight climate change.

Close race one week to go, coalition government likeliest outcome

The close race and number of parties with significant support means the next government will likely be determined by post-election negotiations between at least two or even three parties.

A replication of the current CDU-SPD coalition remains a possibility, but far from the only one.

Another outcome could be the SPD and the Greens joined by the pro-business Free Democrats, as well as an all-left coalition with the SPD, the Greens and the smaller Left party.

Merkel, chancellor since 2005, is not seeking a fifth, four-year term.

A final debate on Thursday will include representatives of all the parties currently in parliament, as well as the SPD, CDU and Green candidates.