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Challenger Fails To Take Down Merkel In Only Debate Before Election

Herby Sachs/WDR/Handout via REUTERS

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Social Democrat (SPD) Martin Schulz launched numerous attacks Sunday against German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but he failed to win the only debate before this month’s general election.

Schulz — who left his position as president of the European Parliament in January to run for chancellor — called Merkel’s open-door refugee policy a “serious mistake,” arguing she should have cooperated with European allies instead. Merkel called it a “very dramatic situation” that forced her to make a decision. Allowing hundreds of thousands of people into the country was the “absolutely correct” thing to do at the time, the chancellor said.

“That is what being chancellor is about,” Merkel said. “You have to decide.”

Schulz tried to convince Germans that the process of integrating a large number of refugees will be “the task of a generation.”

“Integration is not something that happens on paper,” Schulz said.

The debate was considered the last chance for Schulz to turn the race around after falling far behind in polls. More than half of viewers, 55 percent, named Merkel the winner, according to an ARD poll.

Just 35 percent thought Schulz emerged victorious. People also found Merkel more credible than her competitor by 33 percent compared to 17 percent for the SPD leader.

The general election will take place Sept. 24.

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