BERLIN • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to serve a full four-year term if re-elected and defended herself against a political attack by her Social Democratic challenger that she has faltered on public infrastructure investment.
"I made clear when I announced my re-election bid that I would run for four years," Dr Merkel said in an interview with ARD television on Sunday, 10 weeks before the national election. A full fourth term would extend her chancellorship to 16 years through 2021.
The German leader also defended her fiscal policy after Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Martin Schulz laid out his party's "Future Plan", including a pledge to spend budget surplus funds on public investment.
"It's also a question of justice among generations not to leave behind a dilapidated country, but rather to invest so that they have the same conditions as we do," Mr Schulz told a crowd hours earlier at SPD's headquarters in Berlin.
Dr Merkel said her government, a coalition between her Christian Democratic-led bloc and the SPD, has already increased spending "massively" on broadband expansion, roads and pre-schools. The challenge to increased investment consists of bureaucratic barriers to allocating funds, she said, requiring accelerated planning processes. "At this point, we can't spend the money that we have," she told ARD in her last nationwide interview before her summer break. "I don't see the main problem in the question of whether there should be more money - you can and you must do that - but rather accelerating planning."
She made a similar argument three days ago in Paris after holding a joint Cabinet meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, who had joined criticism of Germany's current-account surplus. He had signalled in an interview that Germany must help resolve the imbalance by promoting domestic demand through increased spending.
Dr Merkel also defended her decision to hold this month's Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany's second-largest city, where some demonstrations against the meeting devolved into violent street battles between police and protesters.
Polls ahead of the Sept 24 election show Dr Merkel in a strong position. Her coalition bloc had 38 per cent support, 13 points ahead of the rival Social Democrats, according to a poll published in Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday. All other parties had less than 10 per cent.
Mr Schulz, whose SPD pulled nearly even with Dr Merkel's faction in surveys after his surprise nomination in January, has struggled to regain that initial momentum.
"It's important to me that the citizens have a true choice," Dr Merkel said. "I'm certain that Germany can do more."