German election: Polls, parties and probable coalition

Merkel’s moral authority sets direction for Europe

The mythology around Merkel as the measured scientist - the tested mother of a nation - has become the message, and as far as Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union, is concerned, this is enough to ensure it resounding victory Sunday.

In the last German federal elections of 2013, the FDP, who had been coalition partners in the previous Bundestag with Merkel's CDU/CSU, failed to garner the 5% vote threshold to be allocated seats, a first for the party that had sat in every Bundestag since the formation of the new Federal German Republic in 1949. And, on the left, are the Green party, and the Left, which originates from East Germany's communists. Given the CDU's commanding lead in the polls, it is probable that the CDU will form a coalition with one or more of the smaller parties.

Merkel has stolen votes from the SPD in the past by moving to the left on key policies, such as the minimum wage and allowing a Bundestag vote on gay marriage (although she voted against it). Then there is the SPD's ongoing existential dilemma: reforms from 15 years ago that lifted the economy but decimated its voter base. Perhaps the principal reason for Germany's dominance in the European Union is its net contribution to the European Union budget, some 14.5 billion euros net in 2015, dwarfing all others except the UK.

Whenever Merkel does choose to retire from public life, the calculations that kept returning her to power may go out the window. Germany is no exception: much of the debate revolves around immigration, and as a corollary the questions of integration and German identity.

"At this moment in time she's the best we have".

The latest polls show the AfD securing 10-12 percent of the vote, up from 8-10 percent.

More than 150 children accepted the open invitation by Merkel's party, the conservative Christian Democrats, to meet the chancellor at a former department store that's been turned into a campaign building in the city's hipster Mitte neighborhood.

The importance of these German elections for Ireland can not be overstated.

But Schultz's shine wore off this summer.

After state election defeats sapped momentum, and a forced campaign team reshuffle, ex-SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder embarrassed Schulz by taking a highly paid job at Kremlin-controlled oil group Rosneft. Some 30 percent said neither was suitable to take Germany's leadership role. This makes double sense for Merkel, as it will provide stability for the duration of the government, and will also keep its main rival engaged in running the country instead of preparing the ground to mount a more credible electoral challenge. Almost half of German voters expressed in opinion surveys their concerns about the issue of refugees and integration.

"There would hardly be any difference", said Berger, noting that the SPD candidate Schulz might possibly have a slightly stronger normative agenda regarding domestic issues in China, especially human rights and rule of law.

The SPD has pledged €30bn in spending on infrastructure and education, but the CDU has also promised to raise spending.

However, before the European Union can become a more robust and effective security and defence power, it has to deal with a host of internal issues. Germany is the world's fourth largest economy and Europe's largest, with its GDP representing nearly a third of the economy of the Eurozone.

Unlike in the United Kingdom, where voters put a cross against one name on the voting slip, German voters get two votes on a single ballot paper.

There are 299 voting districts, and candidates who win in their district gets a seat in the Berlin parliament. Well, come 18:00 local time on September 24, Merkel, Schulz, and other party leaders will know where they stand.

Ironically, as Germans prepare to vote on September 24, a candidate from Merkel's CDU ruling party has prominently plastered electoral posters everywhere quoting former U.S. Barack president Obama: "If I could vote, I'd vote for Merkel".

However, there is one extra complication: parties must win at least five per cent of the national vote, of three constituencies, to enter the Bundestag.

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