Angela Merkel slams Biden for not getting evacuation extension

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Mr Merz lost out to Mrs Merkel in the fight to be the leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in 2005, after which she became Chancellor. By contrast, he quit politics four years later to work as a corporate lawyer, returning to the fray last year when he once again sought the CDU leadership – and was beaten once again, this time by Armin Laschet, the man seen as the current Chancellor’s natural heir to the extent that he is sometimes dubbed mini-Merkel.

Somewhat out of touch with everyday life

Friedrich Merz, Angela Merkel’s arch-rival

Ever since Mr Merz has been widely regarded as Mrs Merkel’s arch-rival – and he did little to dispel the impression during his appearance on Bild Live, when he seemed keen to twist the knife less than a month before the 67-year-old resigns after 16 years as Germany’s leader.

Specifically, Mr Merz, 65, was highly critical of proposals to ban unvaccinated people from travelling on long-distance trains, describing the idea as “somewhat out of touch with everyday life”.

He warned: “Millions of commuters at the major train stations in Berlin, Cologne and Dusseldorf would have to be asked in the morning before they get on the train whether they have been tested, have recovered or have been vaccinated.”

Her proposals would have a particular impact on families, Mr Merz claimed.

He explained: “Families with children are now faced with the question of whether they have to stay at home, whether children have to stay at home, whether schools are closed.”

With September 26’s general election looming large, Mrs Merkel yesterday took aim at Olaf Scholz, the centre-left Social Democratic (SPD) candidate for Chancellor for refusing to rule out a coalition with the far left.

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She told a joint news conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: “With me as chancellor there would never be a coalition in which the Linke is involved, and whether this stance is shared by Olaf Scholz or not remains open.

“In this context, there is simply a huge difference for the future of Germany between me and him.”

Sunday’s debate saw Mr Scholz face off against Mr Laschet and Green candidate Annalena Baerbock.

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Mr Laschet said: “I have felt headwinds now and again, as I do now.

“But aren’t we all feeling the winds of change blowing us in the face?

“At times like these, we need steadfastness, dependability and an internal compass. That is what I offer.”

Mr Scholz countered by pledging “a society that values respect. Respect for everyone.”

He added: “And that is why we need better pay, a higher minimum wage, and of course also stable pensions.

“We have to stop man-made climate change and ensure that we still have good jobs in 10, 20 and 30 years.”

Meanwhile, Ms Baerbock, who has vowed to install solar panels on every roof and ban the sale of combustion engine vehicles from 2030, told both: “You obviously don’t have a plan.”

A poll this week showing the centre-left SPD with a five-point lead.

In a hypothetical direct vote for chancellor, a separate INSA poll showed that Ms Scholz would take 31 percent of the vote, compared with 10 percent for Laschet and 14 percent for Ms Baerbock.

Despite the SPD’s lead in the polls, they would still need to team up with two other parties to govern.

(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)

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