This was supposed to be the highlight of a lacklustre election campaign. For months German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives have enjoyed a significant lead over their nearest rival – and current coalition partner.
The TV stations prepared their viewers for an impassioned, furious debate. But those hoping for rhetorical bloody noses were disappointed. As were the viewers hoping that Martin Schulz, who is unlikely to take Mrs Merkel’s crown, might at least taste victory on national TV.
Angela Merkel has been in the job for 12 years, and it showed.
The chancellor is not known for her skilful oratory and she doesn’t relish this kind of public debate. Nevertheless, Mrs Merkel appeared relaxed, credible and experienced, effortlessly parrying her opponent’s attacks.
It was her best debate performance, according to the German news site Spiegel online. Which doesn’t say much, given that she lost the first three.
But then Martin Schulz was always going to struggle to land a blow. It is tricky, for example, to attack Mrs Merkel’s refugee policy when you are on record as having said that the faith in Europe that each migrant brought with them is worth more than gold.