'Change is in your hands,' Merkel rival tells voters

'Change is in your hands,' Merkel rival tells voters
Chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Peer Steinbrueck delivers his speech at the SPD election campaign event.

BERLIN - Angela Merkel's election rival Peer Steinbrueck urged voters in Berlin Thursday to swing behind his bid to usher in a more socially fair Germany by toppling the chancellor.

"In three days, it's in your hands to bring about a change of government in Germany," the 66-year-old challenger in Sunday's elections told the crowd in Alexanderplatz, which once marked East Berlin's centre.

"Freedom, justice and solidarity," he said, stressing the values his Social Democratic Party (SPD) had represented for 150 years and would continue to fight for, as he criticised Merkel's policies.

Under Berlin's iconic Television Tower, Steinbrueck, wearing a red tie in his party's signature colour, gave a lively address from the podium at the centre of an open-sided tent to a gathering of several thousand.

More crowded around the outside, some enjoyed an after-work beer on a fresh but clear evening, while others broke off from shopping to crane for a view of several SPD leaders who joined the homestretch push for votes.

"He is completely different from Mrs Merkel and that's good," Daniel Boese, 39, a lecturer from Berlin, who has been an SPD member for more than 20 years, told AFP.

"Mrs Merkel talks a lot and does nothing."

After a gaffe-prone campaign, the self-styled straight-talking Steinbrueck has struggled to chip away at Merkel's popularity, with the SPD trailing the conservatives by a 10-point margin in an Insa poll Thursday.

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