Merkel, Steinmeier stage TV debate

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her top rival Frank-Walter Steinmeier staged on Sunday night alive TV debate for upcoming general election, which local media branded as "short of passion and personal attacks."

During the 90-minute debate, Merkel argued that Germany needs a new centre-right government to boost Europe's biggest economy as it emerges from recession, while Steinmeier portrayed himself as a champion of "social balance" and said a shift to the right would mean a growing gap between rich and poor.

File photo taken shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier attend a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin September 8, 2009. [Xinhua] 

Both praised the work of current "grand-coalition" government which consists of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Steinmeier's Social Democrats (SPD). Steinmeier himself is serving as the foreign minister.

The prime-time debate was shown on four public and private channels, and over twenty million Germans watched the encounter, the only live TV debate between the two prior to the Sept. 27 general election.

Polls by two television channels found neither candidate scoring a decisive win in a debate, which local TV commentators labelled as being "short on passion and personal attacks."

Local TV channel RTL put Merkel ahead by a 37-35 percent margin, while ARD gave Steinmeier a narrow 43-42 percent win.

Latest polls showed that Merkel's CUD and its Bavaria-only sister, the Christian Social Union, led 12 percentage points or more over Steinmeier's SPD.

(Xinhua News Agency September 14, 2009)

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