German opposition slams Merkel, Schulz for 'lifeless' TV debate


German opposition parties on Monday slammed Chancellor Angela Merkel and her main challenger, Martin Schulz, for failing to talk about topics of substance in the only TV debate of the election season, thereby playing into the hands of the right wing.

Trailing badly in the race to become Germany's chancellor, Schulz of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) failed to differentiate his policy positions from those of Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) during Sunday's televised debate.

Merkel, meanwhile, stood firm on her record by saying her decisions to open Germany's borders to thousands of stranded refugees in September 2015 and to strike a deal with Turkey to halt the influx of refugees were "absolutely right."

Though an opinion poll showed Merkel winning the debate by a narrow margin, Katja Kipping of the opposition Left Party said "the real winners were the right-wing populists and the capitalists. Subjects ... that really worry people were hardly mentioned."

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which is running on an anti-immigrant, nationalist platform, is currently polling at around 8 per cent, meaning it is almost certain to enter the Bundestag parliament for the first time after the September 24 election.

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