By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — German voters head to the polls on September 24 in a national election that is expected to deliver Chancellor Angela Merkel an historic fourth term and the first right-wing party to parliament since the end of World War II.
Merkel, the clear frontrunner after 12 years in power, and her conservative bloc of the Christian Democratic Party and Bavarian-only Christian Social Union has a strong lead in the polls.
Although support has been eroding slightly over the past week, surveys show Merkel’s bloc leading with between 34 percent to 37 percent support, followed by the Social Democrats with 21 percent to 22 percent.
Before heading for cities in northern Germany, Merkel told supporters in Berlin on September 23 that they needed to keep up their efforts to sway undecided voters, saying “many make their decision in the final hours.”
“We want to boost your motivation so that we can still reach many, many people,” the 63-year-old chancellor said in Berlin on the last day of campaigning.
Merkel’s main challenger, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, attended a rally in western Germany in the city of Aachen.
Both Merkel, a pastor’s daughter who grew up in Communist East Germany, and Schulz have called on the electorate to resist the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has vituperated against the influx of around 1 million mostly Muslim migrants and refugees.
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also a Social Democrat, warned that “for the first time since the end of the second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German parliament.”
The AfD, which has links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s ultranationalist UKIP, appears assured of gaining seats in the national parliament for the first time, with 10 percent to 13 percent support in the polls.
The International Auschwitz Committee warned that the “conglomerate of anti-Semites, enemies of democracy and nationalistic agitators” will bring “an inhuman coldness” to the German parliament.
In addition to the AfD, the Greens, the Free Democratic Party, and the Left Party were all poised to enter parliament with poll numbers between 8 percent and 11 percent.