Three weeks before elections incumbent German chancellor Angela Merkel is heading for a possible fourth term while her rival Martin Schulz is failing to win audiences in a crucial televised debate.
Sunday’s TV clash had been seen as Schulz’s ‘last chance’ to convince millions in his cause and halt a devastating popularity slide.
But polls following the 90-minute showdown gave Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) since 2000, a clear edge over Schulz, a former European Parliament president and leader of the Social Democratic Union Party of Germany (SDP).
“Merkel came out as sure, Schulz was hardly able to land a punch. The candidate is an honourable man. But being honourable alone won’t make one chancellor,” wrote Heribert Prantl, Sueddeutsche daily commentator.
There will be no further televised debates in the run-up to the election.
With millions of voters still undecided, Schulz had been looking to the debate to erode the commanding 17-percentage point lead of Merkel’s CDU party and their Bavarian CSU allies ahead of the September 24 polls.