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Merkel, already Chancellor for 12 years, had run a low-key campaign emphasising the country's falling unemployment, strong economic growth, balanced budget and overall stability in a volatile world. Their parties now govern together in a coalition of traditional rivals.

Schulz, the former European Parliament president who never went to college, said he also didn't gamble. As Germany moves to the right, she may too. It's also been hard for him to carve out clear differences with the conservatives.

Decker is among the many German entrepreneurs that are generally pleased with Merkel's approach to governance: Over the last decade, the chancellor has consistently pushed for broader European integration, and helped to strengthen global economic relations.

Macron's idea of the eurozone being able to borrow money collectively is also acutely sensitive in Germany, while his proposal for a eurozone parliament has few takers at present. And globally, Merkel earns more confidence (a median of 42% across 37 nations) than Chinese President Xi Jinping (28%), Russian President Vladimir Putin (27%) or U.S. President Donald Trump (22%).

Polls now show that Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party - with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) - will be the largest party after the Bundestag election on 24 September, but they will fall short of a majority.

They put Schulz's SPD around or below the 23 per cent they won in their worst showing yet in post-Second World War Germany, which was recorded in 2009, the report said.

"Although the AfD is highly unlikely to fare as well as the extreme right in France or the Netherlands, any relative success for the AfD will reflect badly to worldwide onlookers, given German history", he said. To bridge the gap, Schäuble could take up the Eurogroup presidency, as Jeroen Dijsselbloem is set to leave the Eurogroup by the time the new Dutch government is formed (expected by the end of 2017).

In the wake of Volkswagen's diesel emissions scandal, the future of the vehicle has become a hot topic in campaigning with the Green party urging a deadline to phase out the combustion engine - a call both Merkel's conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats reject.

These results show how the social media battlefield in the German electoral campaign largely departs from current polls. He placed the AfD alongside European right-wing groups such as France's Front National, Italy's Northern League and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party. In August, struggling, Schulz took to calling her "abgehoben", or aloof, and suggested that he would be a tougher opponent for Trump. The Greens want a faster transition away from gas and diesel cars and a wealth tax on the rich - neither of which the conservatives are likely to swallow. You just need more than 5 percent of the vote to do so, but they could significantly outperform that.

Little about the future of German politics is clear, however. The AfD dismisses such comparisons. In 2015, her decision to let hundreds of thousands of refugees into the country astonished many on the left, although Merkel may not have had much of a choice.

"If I could, I would vote for Merkel", it says. However, none of the other parties are officially willing to cooperate with the AfD, nor does one nationalist movement in one country necessarily spell cooperation with nationalist movements in other places. The CSU tends to be more socially conservative than the CDU, and has a tougher immigration policy.

But she has kept her focus firmly on the centre ground, long a secret of her success.

That is a small number since Germany's uniquely complicated system allows parliament to have between 500 and 700 seats, depending on how the parties fare and the regions involved. That deprived liberal rivals of one awkward issue before campaigning even began.

Despite her understated appearance, Merkel does have a unique personality as a political operator.

"There is someone who wants to administer the past". One however sticks out more than others - that of CDU Leader, Angela Merkel, seeking a fourth term in office.


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