The Race is on for the German Election | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.01.2002
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The Race is on for the German Election

Now it's official: Chancellor Gerhard Schröder will face off against Bavaria’s Edmund Stoiber in September's election, edging out CDU chef Angela Merkel


Angela Merkel gracefully declines the candidacy

In what was not an entirely unexpected announcement, German opposition leader Angela Merkel said on Friday that she would drop out of the race to challenge Gerhard Schröder in this year’s upcoming election.

Merkel, head of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) moved over to make room for the Bavarian Premier, Edmund Stoiber, who she considers better suited to represent the interests of her party.

CDU parliamentary floor leader Friedrich Merz praised Merkel's decision, saying she was truely worthy of leading the party, and that she was "anything but a loser".

Merkel’s decision was met with relief from CDU representatives and party supporters, who in the last few weeks have publicly questioned the ability of the "German Margaret Thatcher" to beat Schröder in the September election.

"I have always said the chancellor candidate of the conservatives should be the person who has the greatest chance of victory," Merkel told a news conference after a party meeting in Magdeburg.

Opion polls

Rumors had begun circulating this week that Merkel would step down from the chancellor candidacy, the question was only when.

On Friday a public opinion poll showed that Stoiber, leader of the CDU’s smaller Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would fare better than Merkel in an election.

According to the German public television station ZDF, 61 percent of conservative voters favored Stoiber over Merkel with 24 percent.

A poll by the Electoral Research Group asked 1,035 German voters who they would vote for if the general election took place tomorrow. In a head-to-head race Schröder had a slight lead over Stoiber, but only by four points.

In Germany, such opinion surveys are only pure speculation, since chancellors are not directly elected by voters, but rather by their parties. The party with the most overall votes in parliament selects the chancellor.

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