German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fresh from a three-week Alpine holiday, embarked on what may be the most bizarre election campaign in the country's post-war history. After months of studiously ignoring the race for the September 24 election, Merkel kicked off a series of rallies across the country with a campaign speech in the western city of Dortmund delivering an upbeat message on jobs.
"We are set to reach full employment by 2025, that is to say an unemployment rate under three percent, and I believe we can achieve it," said Merkel of a key objective of her center-right Christian Democrat Union (CDU).
But just six weeks before the European Union's top economic power and most populous nation goes to the polls, Germans have been barely taking notice of the election.
After 12 years in power, Merkel, frequently called the world's most powerful woman and Europe's de facto leader, looks set to win a fourth term. Gone are the warnings of her political demise heard at the height of the 2015 refugee influx in Europe, when nearly 900,000 asylum seekers entered the country. Her conservative Christian Democrats lead their closest rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), by a 12-to-17-point margin, meaning it would take a political earthquake to shift the field at this point.