'We will take Merkel over Trump, Putin or Erdogan': Germany prepares to vote

 abc.net.au  9/16/2017 10:49:49 PM   Europe correspondent James Glenday in Munich

Posted September 17, 2017 08:49:49

Oktoberfest in Munich is the place to visit if you want to reinforce your preconceived ideas about Germany.

The locals love beer by the litre, like pretzels the size of a plate, and almost all prefer their politicians to be predictable — even a little boring.

"Stability is important," Richard Mayer says, as he prepares for a day in one of the major beer tents.

"In this unpredictable world, I think many people in Germany right now want to keep Angela Merkel."

Opinion polls suggest he is right.

They estimate the Chancellor's conservatives (CDU/CSU) will get about 37 per cent of the vote at next Sunday's general election.

Even some people who would never vote for Ms Merkel think she has done a reasonable job during her 12 years in power.

"She's the best president in the world at the moment," Timo Lutzen says.

"We will take Merkel over Trump, Putin or Erdogan. People can call our politics boring or dull but it looks a lot better than elsewhere right now."

Eighteen months ago, Ms Merkel's future did not seem so certain.

Some were questioning if she would even make it to this election.

About 1 million asylum seekers had arrived in Germany and concerns about terrorism and integration of immigrants had hit her standing.

"It's hard to say exactly how she turned it around … it was a combination of factors," says Julian Gopffarth, from the London School of Economic and Political Science.

"She made some very [subtle] policy changes, particularly to immigration, and the numbers of migrants also started dropping anyway.

"Germany is a very consensus-based country so I think that's another reason why Merkel is so successful, because I think she kind of embodies that consensus and tries to absorb all different positions to do something that is good for almost everyone."

There was also Brexit and Donald Trump's election. Those major world events allowed Ms Merkel to focus on foreign policy, long a perceived strength of the German leader.

"These things had an impact, definitely," Mr Gopffarth says.

Over the past few weeks the Chancellor has also run a fairly low-key election campaign, which has made it even harder for her challenger Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, to make the inroads required to snatch power.

Polls suggest his centre-left SPD may only get about 23 per cent of the vote.

Four other parties, the left-wing Die Linke, the populist right-wing Alternative for Germany, a free trade party and the Greens, look like getting between 8 and 9 per cent.

Most people expect Ms Merkel to form government either in a "grand coalition" with the SPD or with one or two of the smaller groups.

"I think in Germany, everybody feels good," Sebastian Tebbel says.

"We don't have too many problems."

The economy is growing and budget surpluses have been at, or near, record levels.

So, the appetite for change in a country that prefers stability and continuity seems to have disappeared for now.

"There's no chance Angela Merkel will lose," Claus Landvolk states confidently.

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

Topics: elections, world-politics, government-and-politics, germany

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