Facing far-right gains, Merkel, Schulz urge undecided Germans to vote

BERLIN/GREIFSWALD, Germany (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, poised to win a fourth term in Sunday’s election, and her center-left challenger Martin Schulz urged supporters on Saturday to keep fighting for votes with a third of the electorate still undecided.

Merkel is widely expected to cruise to re-election with the Schulz’s Social Democrats trailing by double digits but the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) could emerge as the third largest party, complicating the outlook for her next coalition.

A new INSA poll published by Bild newspaper showed sliding support for Merkel’s conservatives, who dropped two percentage points to 34 percent, and the SPD, down one point to 21 percent – both now joined in an unwieldy “grand coalition”.

The anti-immigrant AfD, meanwhile, rose two percentage points to 13 percent, cementing its bid to be the first far-right party to enter parliament since the end of World War Two.

Merkel urged supporters to drum up votes by focusing on conservatives’ efforts on behalf of families, a pledge to avoid tax increases and emphasis on increasing security in Germany.

The Christian Democratic leader also lauded the role of the European Union in providing stability in “a troubled world”.

“We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people today. Many are still undecided,” Merkel said before heading north to her home constituency.

In Greifswald, she led a crowd in practicing CPR as loudspeakers blared the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive”.

“I should be in better shape, with the international media here, but I’ll give it a try,” a smiling Merkel told the crowd.

First elected in 2005, Merkel remains popular in Germany but has regularly faced jeers and whistles from left- and right-wing demonstrators during rallies during this campaign.

In Munich on Friday, Merkel defended her 2015 decision to admit about one million asylum seekers on humanitarian grounds, but pledged to prevent a repeat of that crisis.

In the western city of Aachen, Schulz pledged to fight for every vote until polls close at 6 p.m. on Sunday. He said high voter turnout was vital to offset growing support for the AfD, whom he described as “a party of haters.”

“Young people, think about Brexit. Think about Trump,” he said. “Go vote. Take this right to vote seriously, and use it.”

Schulz said the SPD overcame resistance from conservatives in their coalition to push through a minimum wage,…

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