BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday she wants to continue ruling Germany to help improve the wealth and security of its 82 million residents and to foster solidarity among all parts of society.
Merkel is running for a fourth term as chancellor in a national election on Sept. 24. She said in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF that she also wants to improve schools and education, and to push for more electric automobiles.
Merkel's main challenger was questioned in a separate interview on ARD television. Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, who was president of the European Parliament until January, also vowed to invest more money in education as chancellor.
In the ARD interview, Schulz accused Merkel of being aloof and detached from the German public. Merkel, in a rare reference to her challenger, rejected the characterization and said she wants to "continue serving the wellbeing of the German people."
Schulz, 61, is trailing Merkel, 63, in pre-election polls and, with Germany enjoying record-low unemployment, a balanced budget and a strong economy, faces an uphill battle to unseat her.
The latest poll results, released Saturday by the Emnid agency, showed Schulz's Social Democrats at 23 percent behind Merkel's conservative bloc at 38 percent.
Merkel's campaign strategy has been to mainly ignore Schulz. The platform of her Christian Democratic Union party is focused more on Merkel as a person than pressing issues.
Large campaign posters show a smiling Merkel in front of the black, red and yellow of the German flag and with the slogan, "For a Germany in which we like to live and live well."
The chancellor and Schulz are scheduled to face each other in a televised debate on Sept. 3, the only one of the election campaign.