Angela Merkel eyes her fourth term as chancellor

Alexander Gauland

Alexander Gauland

"She is called Angela Merkel", he said recently.

A few exuberant refugees - carefully chosen and given front row seats - wave a huge banner. But the Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany), or AfD, which has been billed as an "extreme right-wing party", is poised to make a run. No one here is taking any chances.

European shares steadied on Friday, as tensions over North Korea kept some investors on the sidelines ahead of a national election in Germany that conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel looks set to win.

"You have the choice between a chancellor who avoids any debate about the future of this country and one who may not always speak diplomatically, but says which direction he wants to go", Schulz told a crowd in the downtown Gendarmenmarkt square. Her carefully stage-managed campaign is created to reflect her experience; 12 years in the job. There are expectations that a Merkel victory - which appears nearly certain - could further support the country's equities, regardless of the make-up of her coalition.

Citizenship applications from Britons leapt by 361% in 2016 as a record number of nearly 3,000 United Kingdom citizens became German, a figure that is is expected to be considerably higher this year, according to Germany's federal statistics office.

Macron's election has already created "a more positive spirit in the EU", according to a diplomat from one member state. She seems easily influenced. It features a famous portrait of Reformation leader Martin Luther with the slogan: "I would vote for the NPD - I couldn't do otherwise".

Social media watchers spotted a small-scale effort late in the campaign by Russian accounts on Twitter to amplify a call by German far-right activists for their supporters to volunteer as observers at polls to prevent possible voting fraud.

Around the corner the smashed windows of a shop front tell the real story of this election.

Just a few months ago, AfD had nearly faded from view despite notable gains in some local elections. Someone has scrawled "hate Nazis" on the building.

Most pollsters say a low turnout could boost the AfD, which has gained popularity by focusing on migration and security.

As we walk along the lakeside here, among gulls and swans, Rolf Kronhagel explains why he shifted his allegiance to AfD.

Importantly, it would help Europe to face down Trump's high-handed abrasiveness, a revanchist Vladimir Putin, and the sharp teeth of geopolitical challenges from China's ambitious Xi Jinping. The party has been running at between nine and 12 percent in surveys. "They see that it [Macron's vision] will require efforts [to change] by Germany, are they are not all ready to make those efforts". Elections are decided by older generations, which is why mainstream parties are frequently blamed for not focusing on the future and issues affecting younger people, such as education. She dropped her support for nuclear energy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, for example. But it's climbed back up in the polls, largely thanks to a campaign which focuses on immigration. Another shows two bikini clad white women along with the catchphrase "Burkas?" It would be the first time since WW2 that a far-right party is represented in the Bundestag. What began life on the political fringe is fast becoming mainstream. He despairs of the dramatic fall in support for the Social Democrats, but is confident that when the anti-immigrant AfD, as expected, enters the Bundestag "they will be suffocated fairly quickly, because they'll be forced to take a more moderate line". If the AfD does better than polls now suggest, that might well spark concern among investors. A place which prides itself now on compromise and consensus is likely to be a rowdier, more fractious place. But this election could have a significant impact on how Brexit will proceed.

The mood in Berlin's political circles as the hours tick down toward election day might best be described by that ur-German instinct - angst. What is the political norm in many other European countries was unthinkable here.

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