Merkel, rival Schulz spar over Turkey in TV election debate

Jerome Frank
September 4, 2017

Sunday's TV clash had been touted as Schulz's last chance to sway millions to his cause and halt a devastating popularity slide.

At the air quality "summit" on Monday, Merkel has said she will suggest a compromise solution where the most polluted municipalities could get funding to speed up the development of e-car charging stations and better public transport.

Schulz said at the TV duel that if he becomes German Chancellor, he will stop accession talks with Turkey.

"Two years ago", says Deutsche Welle, it looked like Merkel was "done for" - but now she seems to be a safe bet, well ahead of Schulz in opinion polls. "You have to decide", she said.

The exchanges came with 12 German citizens now under arrest in Turkey in a crackdown by Mr Erdogan on regime critics and journalists that is widely seen in the European Union as politically-motivated and anti-democratic.

The exchange over Turkey was the high point of a wide-ranging debate in which Mr Schulz attacked Ms Merkel with surprising force over Turkey and also over refugee policy. In another poll for ARD television, Merkel emerged as the clear victor - 55 percent of respondents said she was the more convincing, while only 35 percent held that view about Schulz.

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Why did Merkel U-turn on Turkey?

"I do not intend to break off diplomatic relations with Turkey just because we're in an election campaign and want to show each other who is tougher", she said.

Brussels, which has already frozen Turkey's entry negotiations, is now likely to consider further actions.

He attacked Merkel for her fateful 2015 decision to throw open Germany's borders for asylum seekers stranded in Hungary, which prompted some Eastern European leaders to refuse to take in refugees under a European Union quota system.

In her pitch to voters, Merkel touted her 12 years of experience as the leader of Europe's biggest economy, citing Germany's low unemployment rate and pledging not to raise the pension age to 70.

Erdogan added to the tensions this month when he urged ethnic Turks in Germany to vote against Merkel's conservatives and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in September 24 elections. It is a gap most commentators believe is too large to make up, and there was little sign Mr Schulz did enough last night to change the course of the election.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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