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Even opponents of Peer Steinbrück value his economic and financial know-how, but for many in the ranks of his own party, the SPD's candidate for the chancellery just isn't far enough to the left. Is Steinbrück a real alternative to incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel? And how does he plan to take Europe forward?

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It took a while for Germany's SPD party to make up its mind, but now the social democrats have backed Peer Steinbrück to take on Chancellor Angela Merkel in next year's elections. Feisty, intelligent and eloquent, many think that Merkel's former finance minister has the makings of a chancellor.

With the debt crisis still ravaging the eurozone, the professional economist is in the perfect position for political point scoring. His way with numbers is highly prized by voters and political opponents alike and Chancellor Merkel's governing coalition is floundering, with her CDU constantly squabbling with its FDP coalition partners. Nevertheless, Merkel is still the German people's first choice chancellor.

Peer Steinbrück's greatest challenge will be to win over and unite his own party. As a champion of labor market reform, Steinbrück is seen to support the dismantling of Germany's social institutions by many in the SPD's left, and that makes him a turncoat to traditional social democratic values. But Steinbrück has hit back. His recent calls for stronger regulation of the financial markets and a split between investment and retail banking have helped restore some of that lost confidence. To take on Merkel, however, the SPD man will also have to win over voters both on the left and in the center. A tall order, but can Steinbrück rise to the challenge? Can he offer a real alternative to Chancellor Merkel and her policies? Which party could he form a governing coalition with? And what would a Germany with Steinbrück at the helm mean for Europe?

Tell us what you think: Merkel´s Challenger: A Fresh Wind for Europe?

Send us an email: Quadriga@dw.d

Our guests:

Ulrike Winkelmann – After completing her studies in German, constitutional law and political science in Hamburg and London, she underwent journalistic training at the “taz” newspaper in Hamburg. She has now worked there at various desks since 1999. After a short stint as head of the politics desk at the weekly newspaper “Der Freitag”, she returned to the “taz” in 2011, where she is now one of the chief editors for domestic politics.

Hans Monath– Born in South Africa, he first came to Germany to study modern history and philosophy at Freiburg University. His career in journalism took him to Berlin, where he worked as a parliamentary correspondent for the "taz" newspaper, before taking over at the politics desk at the "Deutsche Allgemeine Sonntagsblatt." Today, he's a correspondent at the parliamentary office of Berlin's daily "Der Tagesspiegel" newspaper.

Laura Lucchini – After studying communication sciences at university in Milan and Madrid, she completed a master’s degree in journalism in Buenos Aires. Today, she is a freelance journalist for the Argentinean newspaper “La Nación”, the “El País” in Spain, and the Italian publications “Linkiesta” and “L´Unità.”