German voters to choose between competing visions

Undecided voters may tip Sunday's German election, a contest between competing visions over how to re-energize the stagnant economy and repair Berlin's battered ties with Washington. Polls suggest a coalition government is the likely outcome.

Analysts still predict the country will get its first female chancellor in Angela Merkel, the leader of the conservative Christian Democrats. But incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's center-left Social Democrats have been climbing in the polls in recent weeks, and Merkel's ability to muster a coalition majority with the small, pro-business Free Democrats is in doubt.

If she gets that majority, the former physicist can proceed with proposals to streamline the tax system, make it easier for small companies to fire people and loosen the rigid labor market tackling a 11.4 percent unemployment rate and troublingly low rates of economic growth.

Without a majority Merkel may still wind up chancellor but sharing power in a coalition with the Social Democrats an arrangement that would spell a less radical break and, in the worst case, policy paralysis. Polls show her preferred alliance right on the edge of a majority in parliament, mustering between 48 and 51 percent in a survey by the Forsa agency released Friday.

The survey of 2,004 people, carried out between Monday and Friday with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, found that 25 percent have yet to decide for whom to vote, or even whether to vote at all.

The electorate seems disgruntled with the current government of Social Democrats and Greens, which lags between 38 and 41 percent. But they also seem fearful a right-wing government might bring change too fast, no matter how much Merkel has tried to assure them she won't take an ax to the welfare state, ABC News reports.

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