German editorial writers agree that the only television debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister and challenger Frank-Walter Steinmeier was more of a duet than a duel.
Sunday's debate was not a hot duel
"It couldn't have been a duel anyway," wrote Die Welt daily. "For one thing, the need for ideological debate seems to be exhausted in this country. And for another, the two politicians could not hit out at one another because it is not their style. Another reason is that they have worked together for four years in a coalition government they managed in harmony. They agree on many issues, so they could not have credibly portrayed being at odds with each other. The debate ended with a balanced 1:1."
"And why should the politicians badmouth the work they have been doing together for the past four years," asked the Sueddeutsche Zeitung paper, "they may have to rule together again after [the] Sept. 27 [election]. The format of a duel is not appropriate to convey political content."
The Berliner Zeitung wrote: "Steinmeier only managed to attack for a few moments. He was obviously lacking the necessary brutality and ruthlessness in view of the past four years in a joint government. Voters who wanted to find out what the world would look like with a coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, or under the leadership of the Social Democrats, did not learn a thing in the debate."
The two are anxious to set themselves apart
Mass-circulation daily Bild had the following assessment: "After a 90-minute 'duel,' we are none the wiser. This was not an exciting duel; it was shop talk between the chancellor and her deputy. And this discussion was a signal: neither Merkel nor Steinmeier would mind continuing the grand coalition."
"It seems as if Merkel and Steinmeier have forged a quiet alliance for the last weeks of the election campaign, even as their coalition government grows increasingly less popular among voters," wrote the Nordsee-Zeitung from the country's north. "Expectations for the debate were not high in the first place; there was no real verbal sparring, there were no new facts: somehow, they do appear to still like each other."
Bonn's General-Anzeiger summed it up: "The two get along well, and that was evident last night."
Editor: Nancy Isenson