Mighty Merkel on track for third term

Mighty Merkel on track for third term
An election-campaign poster in Berlin featuring a typical pose by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her rival, the Social Democrats, is trailing the conservatives by a 13-point margin in opinion polls.

BERLIN - German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an unflappable pastor's daughter, is closing in on a third term in Sunday's general election, cementing her title as the world's most powerful woman.

So strong is Dr Merkel's position that she has often seemed to transcend politics during what may be the last of her juggernaut campaigns, simply ignoring her opponent along the way.

This month, a giant billboard went up at Berlin's main train station featuring only a picture of the 59-year-old's hands folded in her trademark diamond-shape gesture.

Quite simply, the mighty Merkel is the message.

After eight years at the helm of the top European economy, and three as the go-to leader in the euro- zone crisis, Dr Merkel looks set to sail to another term at the helm for steering the country unscathed through the turmoil.

But abroad, angry protesters have marched through the streets of Athens, Lisbon and Madrid, blaming her for national budget cuts they said are choking off desperately needed economic growth, some even brandishing caricatures of Dr Merkel in Nazi garb.

"I am determined to see Europe emerge stronger from the crisis," she intones regularly. "Germany can be strong only with a strong Europe."

Pollsters said all roads appear to lead to Dr Merkel - often called the world's most powerful woman - winning re-election.

Advocates of stronger stimulus measures had placed their hopes in the Social Democrats (SPD). But their gaffe-prone candidate, Mr Peer Steinbrueck, 66, has stumbled repeatedly and the SPD is trailing the conservatives by a 13-point margin in opinion polls.

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