Confident Angela Merkel attacks Schroeder on jobs

29th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

29 August 2005, DORTMUND, GERMANY - A confident Angela Merkel on Sunday hammered Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Germany's near record unemployment with just three weeks to go before national elections which polls show she is likely to win.

29 August 2005

DORTMUND, GERMANY - A confident Angela Merkel on Sunday hammered Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Germany's near record unemployment with just three weeks to go before national elections which polls show she is likely to win.

To enthusiastic shouts of "Angie! Angie!", Merkel said Schroeder had failed to cure Germany's sour economy and this had forced him to call early elections.

"My government will be dominated by a firm will to renew our fatherland," said Merkel who was welcomed with thumping music and cheers of 1,000 delegates from her Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and 10,000 young election volunteers wearing the campaign's trademark orange T-shirts.

Merkel swiftly targeted Germany's unemployment misery with 4.7 million jobless, or almost 12 per cent of the workforce. Schroeder's "Red-Green government has wrecked our nation," she said in reference to the Chancellor's Social Democratic(SPD)-Greens coalition.

"Jobs will have an absolute priority," Merkel declared, adding that she planned to cut bureaucracy to reduce business costs. Merkel also plans to raise federal sales tax to 18 per cent from 16 per cent to cut non-wage labour costs which burden employers.

Merkel warned that Schroeder's centre-left government was not doing enough for business and the elites who were capable of creating new jobs and economic dynamism.

"The biggest danger we have is that the strong leave this country and won't be there to help the weak," she said, stressing that Germany needed to boost growth to levels of the post-war economic miracle.

Merkel poked fun at Schroeder's having held up last week's edition of the British magazine The Economist which had a positive cover story on the German economy.

"Either he didn't read it or he didn't understand it," said Merkel who underlined that The Economist only predicted economic success if Germany got a new government.

In a carefully choreographed ceremony, Merkel was seated next to former chancellor Helmut Kohl, who presided over Germany's 1990 reunification. Kohl, who is 75, was defeated by Schroeder in 1998 and is campaigning hard for Merkel to take political revenge.

The three-hour convention in the western German city of Dortmund was called to rally party troops for the final push to the September 18 elections.

Opinion polls show Merkel's CDU/CSU retains a commanding lead over Schroeder's SPD and that the CDU/CSU has halted its slow decline over the past month.

"The polls are good but the race has not been run - everyone knows it will be close," cautioned Merkel.

Her CDU/CSU with their Free Democratic (FDP) ally, have a slim majority of between 49 per cent and 51 per cent in the six leading German opinion polls.

Schroeder's ruling SPD-Greens alliance is trailing with 36 per cent to 38 per cent.

Most pollsters agree there is not enough time for Schroeder's SPD- Greens government to close the gap and win re-election.

However, a wild card in this year's election is the Left Party comprised of former East Germany's revamped communists and a western German group of rebel ex-SPD members led by former SPD chairman Oskar Lafontaine.

The Left Party is currently between 8 per cent and 10 per cent in the polls. Some analysts predict that by attracting people who would not normally have voted, the Left Party could prevent Merkel's CDU/CSU-FDP from winning a majority.

This could force her to seek a grand coalition with Schroeder's SPD - a political marriage which both leaders say they do not want.

But growing anger over Lafontaine's love of luxury among Left Party members and potential voters may harm the party, said Klaus- Peter Schoeppner, who heads the Emnid polling agency.

Despite the election campaign, Lafontaine took a 10-day vacation in Spain and demanded a private jet to be flown back to Germany for an interview, according to Bild am Sonntag newspaper which had invited him.

A furious Lafontaine termed this "a lie". Bild am Sonntag replied with three-page story including a protocol which it is says proves Lafontaine is lying.

Forsa polling agency chief Manfred Guellner predicted the Left Party will drop to 7 per cent amid the private jet affair.

Foreign policy played only a minor role in Merkel's speech. She underlined the importance of ties with the United States and repeated her rejection of European Union (E.U.) membership for Turkey.

"The integration of the existing E.U. would be overwhelmed by full membership for Turkey," said Merkel who wants to offer Ankara a sub-membership status dubbed a "privileged partnership".

Sending off her supporters for the final weeks of campaigning, Merkel had an almost homespun message from the rural eastern state of Brandenburg where she grew up under communist rule.

"If we approach citizens with humility and show them we really want to serve Germany then we can win," said Merkel.


Subject: German news

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