BERLIN Jan 19 The leader of German Chancellor
Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats in Lower Saxony on Saturday
predicted victory in a close-run regional election that will
gauge Merkel's chances of winning a third term.
A win on Sunday for State Premier David McAllister would end
two years of poor results for the Christian Democrats (CDU) in
state elections and galvanize Merkel's re-election campaign
ahead of a federal vote due in the autumn.
"It was a difficult campaign, a passionate campaign, and to
the end it has been a neck-and-neck race, but I'm very sure we
will win tomorrow," said McAllister, the 42-year-old son of a
British soldier and a German mother.
A survey this week by pollster GMS put the CDU and their
Free Democrat (FDP) allies in a dead-heat with Social Democrat
(SPD) and Green rivals in the northern region. Some 42 percent
of voters were still undecided.
The CDU, on 41 percent, led the SPD on 33 percent in the GMS
poll, after Merkel's conservatives lagged their rivals in the
middle of last year. McAllister has played up his Scottish roots
in his "I'm a Mac" campaign - complete with bagpipes and the
jingle "Our chieftain is a Scot/We're a tough clan"
The SPD dubbed it "a Cuban-style personality cult".
The CDU's campaign has also made use of Merkel's personal
popularity in Germany due to her handling of the euro zone debt
crisis, as well as focussing on issues such as education.
McAllister, carrying out last-minute campaigning on snowy
streets, said momentum would carry him to another term. His
coalition partners in the FDP should secure enough support to
meet the 5 percent threshold needed for assembly seats, keeping
his centre-right government in power, he said.
The vote in Lower Saxony, Germany's second-largest state by
area, is considered a must win for the SPD if they are to have
any hope of unseating Merkel and recovering from a disastrous
start to their national election campaign by gaffe-prone
chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck.
Steinbrueck was also campaigning in Lower Saxony on
Saturday. Both he and FDP leader Philipp Roesler could find
themselves in trouble if their parties have a poor showing.
Roesler, who has proved unpopular with the public and has
failed to inject new dynamism into his flagging party, would be
under pressure to resign if the party fails to win assembly
seats or just scrapes the 5 percent figure in Lower Saxony.
The latest national poll by Infratest dimap published on
Friday gave the CDU a 16-point lead over the SPD with 42
percent, but saw the FDP on 4 percent and as such unable to
enter parliament. This would complicate Merkel's re-election
chances and leave her in search of an alternative partner.
The GMS poll put the Greens on 13 percent in Lower Saxony.