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Germany

SPD's Martin Schulz slams 'aloof' Angela Merkel

The German chancellor's main rival in upcoming elections has upped the rhetoric, accusing Merkel of being out of touch. The SPD chief said he wanted to save Germany from a "period of stagnation and political agony."

Martin Schulz, who heads the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), honed his criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, saying she is "aloof" and out of touch with voters ahead of key parliamentary elections in September.

"More and more people are noticing how aloof she is," Schulz told German public broadcaster ARD. "That's the kind of aloofness that will mobilize my voters."

Read more: Things to know about Germany's Social Democratic Party

With four weeks left until the vote, Schulz has attempted to close the gap between the SPD and Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU). The latest DeutschlandTrend survey put the CDU and its Bavarian sister party CSU ahead with 38 percent, while the SPD trailed at 22 percent.

Since announcing the former European Parliament president's candidacy for chancellor, the SPD has struggled to make gains on Merkel's CDU. But Schulz warned that Merkel has "no plan at all" to deal with key issues such as pollution caused by diesel emissions, which affects cities like Stuttgart.

'Stagnation and political agony'

Schulz said that Merkel's behavior reminded him of the way former Chancellor Helmut Kohl lost touch with voters during his fourth term in the late 1990s.

"The last four years of the Kohl era were a period of stagnation and political agony. I want to spare Germany that again," Schulz said.

Merkel, who avoided taking jabs at the SPD challenger during a Sunday interview with ZDF, is seeking a fourth term as chancellor.

Read more: What the terms 'right' and 'left' mean in the German election

According to the latest polls, both parties are expected to fall short of an outright majority. Schulz said the SPD is not interested in once again being a junior coalition partner with Merkel's CDU.

However, four smaller parties are poised to break the five-percent minimum to enter parliament, including the Greens, Free Democrats, Left Party and Alternative for Germany (AFD).

ls/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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