All options open as SPD makes late surge before poll

12th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

12 September 2005, BERLIN - Indications of a late surge in the fortunes of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's SPD were prompting the main parties to re-evaluate their strategies for the last week of campaigning, German Sunday newspapers reported.

12 September 2005

BERLIN - Indications of a late surge in the fortunes of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's SPD were prompting the main parties to re-evaluate their strategies for the last week of campaigning, German Sunday newspapers reported.

Schroeder was holding fast to his claim that the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens could make up the additional points needed to gain a third mandate when voters go to the polls on Sunday September 18.

"I'm seeing a lot of support wherever I go. There is change in the air ... We want to become the strongest party," the chancellor told the Sunday edition of the mass-circulation Bild.

Angela Merkel, running for the chancellorship on behalf of the Christian Democrat CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister-party, urged her followers to campaign against the idea of a grand coalition of CDU/CSU with the SPD.

Party leaders were urging a more offensive strategy, press reports said.

Polls over recent days have seen Merkel's alliance, which also includes the small FDP liberal party, lose its narrow overall lead.

"The campaign ends only when the booths close Sunday September 18. We must respect the electorate and every vote counts. We have a chance to win the elections and secure an alliance of the union and the FDP," Merkel said.

Roland Koch, CDU prime minister in the state of Hesse, warned that the SDP was prepared, despite pre-election pledges to the contrary, to join forces with the former communists of the Left Party, which draws most of its support from the formerly communist East.

"If the SPD has the chance to continue in government with the Greens and the former communists, they will do so," he said, according to the Welt in its Sunday edition.

He held out the possibility the Left might keep the SDP-Green coalition in power by not voting against them while also not joining a formal coalition.

The Welt reported there was concern within Merkel's Christian union, with CDP and CSU leaders concerned they could be forced into a grand coalition with the SPD.

The Christian Democrats regretted the high media profile over the past week of the party's tax expert, Paul Kirchhof, whose ultimate aim is reported to be a flat income tax rate, the newspaper said.

Schroeder has mocked him as an other-worldly academic, calling him "that professor from Heidelberg". The chancellor has castigated his policies as putting people on an equal footing with objects.

Heads of German business and labour have come out against a grand coalition. The head of the Federation of German Industry (BDI), Ludolf von Wartenburg, said the SDP aimed at continuation, while the union was aiming for change.

"They don't fit together," he said.

Juergen Peters, head of the IG metalworkers union, said any government needed a strong opposition. He called for the SDP to consider joining forces with the Left, even though Schroeder has rejected this.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that Edmund Stoiber, the CSU prime minister of Bavaria, saw a grand coalition as "fatal".

Juergen Ruettgers, CDU prime minister in North Rhine Westphalia, told the newspaper there was not sufficient common ground between the union parties and the SDP for a grand coalition to succeed.

And CDU prime minister of Saxony Georg Milbradt described a grand coalition as a "horror vision".

"It is completely illusory to think that a grand coalition could achieve anything," he said, "Stasis and conflict are pre-programmed."

Recent polls have put the CDU/CSU at around 41 per cent, with its FDP ally on 7, yielding a total of 48 per cent, insufficient for a majority in the Bundestag.

The SPD has risen to around 34 per cent, with its Greens coalition partner on 7. The Left is put at around 8 per cent.

In theory a unified left would have the support of around 49 per cent and possibly sufficient seats for a working majority, as a result of the complex vote-counting system. But Schroeder has rejected forming a coalition with the former communists.

DPA

Subject: German news

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