Europe?s biggest country Germany is all set for a weekend blockbuster, the big election, which the world will be watching ||Though Merkel has a commanding lead, there are other candidates vying for Berlin's top job
By Padma Rao Sundarji, Sr Foreign Editor, WION
Europe’s biggest country Germany is all set for a weekend blockbuster, the big election, which the world will be watching. Germany goes to the polls every four years and will be electing its new Parliament - and in all likelihood, its existing Chancellor Angela Merkel back to the helm for a record fourth term.
Though Merkel has a commanding lead, there are other candidates vying for Berlin's top job.
Here’s a look at the all those in the running
Merkel’s liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is represented in all states or Länder of Germany except Bavaria. It governs Germany together with its cousin party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) which is present only in the southern free state of Bavaria, and in a grand coalition with its big rival, the Social Democrat Party (SPD). Consequently, the CDU/CSU grouping - the Union, as it is referred to - has two candidates for chancellor - Angela Merkel of the CDU and Joachim Hermann of the CSU.
The SPD’s candidate for Chancellor is Martin Schulz. The 62-year-old book seller joined the Social Democrats at age 19. After triumphing over alcoholism, he put in a stint as a mayor and was later elected to the European Parliament (EP) where he first represented the SPD for eight years and then stayed on for another five as the president of the EP. Schulz speaks five European languages and is an avowed supporter of the European Union.
After these giants, there’s the Free Democratic Party (FDP), which follows a liberal ideology. Christian Lindner is the young, hip face of the party which was ignominiously shunted out of Parliament in the last election. And with a catchy new campaign and a candidate to match, the FDP is not only expected to make the ‘five per cent hurdle’ - a key feature of German politics which allows candidates of a party to go to Parliament only if they receive five per cent of the votes - but may even find itself in a coalition with Merkel’s CDU. Lindner, 38, is a graduate of political science who more than knows how to work the media: He is married to the deputy editor-in-chief of Europe’s largest daily.
And then there is the Green Party. In environment-conscious Germany, the party will make it into Parliament but will remain - for a lack of enterprise and new ideas - at the bottom of the heap. And like with other twin groups, there are two aspirants for the Chancellor’s post - Katrin-Göring Eckard, a theologist, and Cem Özdemir, a teacher of Turkish origin who joined the greens at 16 and became a German citizen at age 18.
A controversial debut by a party sure to enter Parliament will be that of the AFD, or Alternative für Deutschland. Some say the AFD is going to beat all smaller parties - even the FDP. A right-wing alternative for Germany, the AFD will be fielding 77-year-old lawyer Alexander Gauland and the young and outspoken Alice Weidel. It is no coincidence that both right-wingers are from eastern Germany, where distrust of foreigners - specifically Muslims - runs high and where the AFD enjoys its strongest support base.
And finally, there’s Die Linke or the Left. The German economy is on the upswing. Exports are booming, unemployment is down. There are other problems of course, but surveys show that socialism is not on top of German minds. Consequently the twin outfit comprising of former East and West German Leftists, are expected to make it to Parliament, but will languish at the bottom of the heap. Their candidates are former social scientist Dietmar Barsch and the erudite graduate of literature, Sahra Wagenknecht.