German election roundup: A 'wide-open' race, a scandalous grilling and a Merkel teddy
With less than a week to go until Germany goes to the polls, the conservatives are confident of victory, the SPD are on the defensive, and a German toy manufacture decides to honour Merkel the only way they know how.
A reversal of fortunes?
Over the past week or, so, Bavarian state premier Markus Söder has been saying that the CDU and CSU are about to see their fortunes change. This may have been seemed like wishful thinking at first, but surely enough, in the eleventh hour, the Union has been clawing back a small - but not insignificant - amount of support in the polls.
As of Monday, Armin Laschet's conservatives were polling at 22 points - around 1.5 points higher than last week. Meanwhile, the SPD were down one point on 25 points, and the Greens were unchanged at 15 points.
The slight turn-up for the books hasn't just got Söder setting his sights on victory. Armin Laschet, the Union's chancellor candidate, has also been telling the press how confident he is.
"I am firmly convinced that the Union will win this Bundestag election," he said on Monday after a meeting with his election team in Berlin. "We are in a race to catch up, and the race is open as never before."
While the polls have shown the former frontrunners lagging behind the SPD for a number of weeks, Laschet pointed out that around a quarter of voters still hadn't made up their mind - meaning the race could still be wide open.
"That is why we are fighting to become the strongest political force," he said.
Scholz gets a grilling, and the SPD are fuming
In the third 'Triell' between the three chancellor candidates, more than a third (42 percent) of viewer declared that the Social Democrats' Olaf Scholz had come out as the winner. But the Finance Minister and SPD chancellor candidate continues to be plagued by an ongoing fraud investigation that has been seized upon by the CDU as a sign of his untrustworthiness.
On Monday, Scholz surprised his critics by turning up in person to answer questions posed by the Finance Committee concerning potential oversights in the anti-money laundering unit FIU.
The body, which Scholz's ministry is indirectly responsible for, is suspected of failing to report potential wrongdoing to the relevant authorities. But, according to AFP sources, Scholz told the committee that no minister could solve all problems "at the click of a finger".
While the CDU have been making as much as they can out of the ongoing investigation, those in the SPD camp suspect their motives aren't entirely pure. Speaking to DPA on Monday, the parliamentary secretary of the SPD parliamentary group, Carsten Schneider, said that the Union was abusing the issue for the election campaign.
"The CDU and CSU are desperately trying to construct new accusations against the federal finance minister and the SPD's candidate for chancellor, as they no longer have the strength for a substantive debate," he said.
German toy maker creates Merkel teddy
She's been an immensely popular leader for more than a decade and a half - so much so that some have termed it a bit of a personal cult. But clearly, the affection for Angela 'Mutti' Merkel is palpable.
For anyone who feels like they may miss having that iconic blonde bob and rhombus-shaped hand gesture in their lives after the elections, one German toy manufacturer has found the solution.
Surrounded by kings, queens and former US presidents, Merkel the bear is in good company. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer
In honour of her years of political service, the Coburg-based company has created a 40cm-high teddy bear Merkel, complete with cropped hair, a red blazer, a necklace in the colours of the German flag, and - of course - the rhombus.
According to Bavarian radio station BR24, Merkel now ranks among other prominent figures such as Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth, who have also been depicted by the bear-makers.
"We try to express contemporary historical moments in teddy bears as an art form," managing director Martin Hermann told BR24.
But anyone keen to get a cuddly Merkel should be warned: they don't come cheap. Picking up a Mutti of your own will cost you around €189, the toy company said - though, of course, the Chancellor herself will be able to get one for free.