The German election campaign is entering its final phase. None of the parties has identified the issues that can really excite the voters and there seems little appetite for a change of government. More than 17 million people watched the TV debate between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat challenger Peer Steinbrück. But there was no clear winner.
The campaign has yet to develop real momentum and fire. Angela Merkel's conservatives seem to be relying on the idea that voters will want to stick with what they have - rather than trying to inspire them with new ideas. And that strategy appears to be working thanks to Germany's comparatively low unemployment rate and sound economy.
Meanwhile, their Social Democrat opponents are struggling to make ground. They have failed to benefit from a scandal over a failed project to develop a combat drone, and are not capitalizing on continuing worries about the euro, or Edward Snowden's revelations that German intelligence agents shared a huge amount of telecommunication data with their US colleagues. The SPD candidate for the Chancellorship, Peer Steinbrück, appears unable to boost his party's standing.
The smaller parties are also running lackluster campaigns. The Greens have surprised voters with plans for large tax rises, and the Free Democrats are concerned they might not make it into parliament at all. There is one party that calls itself the ‘Alternative for Germany’ - but it is focused almost exclusively on the issue of the euro. Some observers are predicting that turnout may be the lowest ever at a general election in Germany.
So what are the chances for political change in Germany? Is there no alternative to Angela Merkel?
Tell us what you think:Germany Votes - Merkel Forever?
Quentin Peel -he is international affairs editor of the Financial Times. He is also an associate editor, responsible for leader and feature writing. He is working at the FT since 1975. Between 1976 and 1994 he served successively as southern Africa correspondent, Africa editor, European Community correspondent and Brussels bureau chief, Moscow correspondent, and chief correspondent in Germany. On his return to London he became foreign editor. He took up his present position in September 1998. He was born in July 1948 and educated at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he studied economics, with French and German.
Eric T. Hansen- A US author, journalist and satirist, Eric Hansen was born in Washington, and grew up in Kailua, in Hawaii. He studied medieval literature in Germany. He then took up work as a freelance journalist. Hansen's articles have appeared in The European, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post, Cicero and in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung. He also has his own column in ZEIT ONLINE. Hansen’s latest book deals with Germany’s fear of its own superpower status.
Christiane Meier- began her career in journalism in northern Germany working for several local broadcasters. She later made the move to Bonn before crossing the Atlantic in 2000 to take up a post with the German public channel "ARD", at its Washington bureau. Ms Meier returned to Germany in 2007 and is still working for "ARD". She is now based in Berlin where she is responsible for foreign affairs, the chancellor, the Greens as well as environmental issues.