Angela Merkel v Peer Steinbrück: the German election goes prime-time

Germany's chancellor goes head-to-head with her political rival in a 90-minute TV debate broadcast live on four channels

Electioneering for next month's German polls will begin in earnest on Sunday, when Chancellor Angela Merkel goes head to head with her main rival Peer Steinbrück in a televised debate.

The prime-time duel – a relatively new event of the German election campaign – will see the Christian Democrat and the Social Democrat facing questions from four presenters, in a showdown broadcast simultaneously on four channels. At the end a poll of television viewers will choose the best candidate.

In 90 minutes the two politicians will face an array of questions on issues including the economy, family policy and foreign affairs. Steinbrück will answer the first question while Merkel will have the last word.

Each candidate has been invited to deliver a concluding statement to last between 60 and 90 seconds. No candidate may speak more than 60 seconds longer than their rival.

The euro crisis and the NSA spying scandal are likely to be prominent topics while it's also expected that the Syrian conflict will loom large over the debate, particularly after Steinbrück this week backed calls within his party for Merkel to urgently travel to Moscow to discuss the crisis with Vladimir Putin and press him to intervene. Merkel has stressed that the Syrian government's actions could not remain unpunished.

In a poll before the debate, 48% predicted that Merkel, who will become Europe's longest serving leader if re-elected on 22 September, would emerge as the winner of the US-style debate, while 26% favoured Steinbruck, a former finance minister who is known for his quick-wit and rhetorical skills, but sometimes comes across as arrogant. Kate Connolly


Kate Connolly

The GuardianTramp

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