(Bloomberg) -- German election front-runner Olaf Scholz used a campaign stop in Volkswagen AG’s home town to send a signal that the transition to a less-polluting and more advanced economy must happen swiftly even if it puts jobs at risk.
With five days until Sunday’s vote, Scholz and his Social Democrats are holding on to a narrow lead over the conservatives and their candidate Armin Laschet, who is hoping to succeed Christian Democratic Union party colleague Angela Merkel as chancellor.
Scholz appeared Tuesday in Wolfsburg alongside Daniela Cavallo, the head of VW’s works council, at an event with an audience of a few dozen held at an indoor swimming pool. He warned that German industry risks losing its competitive edge and falling behind rivals in Asia and beyond unless it embraces technological change and successfully manages the shift to carbon-neutral production.
“We need to constantly have in the front of our minds that we can’t afford to miss the boat,” Scholz said. “In the car industry, and in many other sectors, it’s about being there at the front of the next wave.”
Scholz remains in pole position to lead Germany’s next government after engineering a remarkable turnaround in recent months to force himself into contention.
The latest opinion poll published Tuesday pointed to a slight tightening in the race. Support for Laschet’s CDU/CSU increased by one percentage point compared with a week earlier to 22%, with the SPD unchanged on 25% in first place and the Greens holding on 17% in third.
Laschet, by contrast, has failed to rally traditional conservative voters and his campaign has been marred by missteps and unconvincing performances in the three televised candidate debates.
Laschet will seek a boost when he attends a rally later on Tuesday with Merkel in her electoral district on Germany’s north coast.
The outgoing chancellor, who is stepping aside after 16 years in power, has mostly stayed out of the campaign but is also appearing with Laschet on Friday in Munich and on Saturday in his home town of Aachen.
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