East Germans furious atStoiber 'frustrated' jibe

11th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

11 August 2005, BERLIN - A new row pitting east Germans against their richer western cousins fuelled controversy Thursday in the country's election campaign with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party seizing the issue to score points against conservatives who lead in all polls.

11 August 2005

BERLIN - A new row pitting east Germans against their richer western cousins fuelled controversy Thursday in the country's election campaign with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party seizing the issue to score points against conservatives who lead in all polls.

Edmund Stoiber, prime minister of Bavaria which is one of the most prosperous western German states, dubbed east Germans as "frustrated" and said he didn't want them deciding Germany's September 18 general election.

"I cannot accept that the east again decides who in Germany can become chancellor," said Stoiber who was narrowly defeated as the Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) candidate by Schroeder in Germany's 2002 election in part for failing to win enough votes in formerly communist east Germany.

Eastern Germans expressed outrage over the comments.

Wolfgang Thierse, the president of Germany's parliament and a member of Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD), slammed the remarks as undemocratic.

"Stoiber is trying to turn eastern Germans into second class voters ... There is an elementary rule of democracy that ballots cast by every German have the same weight," said Thierse.

The SPD premier Mecklenburg-West Pomerania - which is one of the poorest states in eastern Germany - said Stoiber was against voting rights for 'Ossis' as eastern Germans are dubbed.

"Herr Stoiber was never a friend of eastern Germany," said state premier Harald Ringstorff in a Leipziger Volkszeitung interview.

Stoiber declined to apologise for the remarks made at an election rally last week and instead added to them.

*quote1*"Unfortunately, the people are simply not as smart everywhere as they are in Bavaria," said Stoiber, an arch-conservative who frequently touts Bavaria as a model for the whole country.

Eastern Germany remains the poorhouse of the nation with 18.6 per cent unemployment, compared with 9.6 per cent joblessness in western Germany. The rate in Stoiber's booming Bavaria is 7.3 per cent.

The controversy over Stoiber follows a scandal caused by another Christian Democrat, Joerg Schoenbohm, a western German who is interior minister of eastern Brandenburg state.

Following the discovery last month of the bodies of nine babies, all apparently killed by their mother in eastern Germany, Schoenbohm blamed what he termed the "forced proletarianisation" of the region for the crime.

He later apologised for the comments but the damage was done.

Despite these stumbles, the opposition CDU/CSU candidate for next month's election, Angela Merkel, leads Schroeder's SPD in all opinion polls.

But the commanding CDU/CSU lead has been slipping and the party is now polling between 42 per cent and 45 per cent, compared to 26 per cent to 29 per cent for Schroeder's SPD.

The Chancellor's Greens coalition partner are between 7 per cent and 9 per cent, while the opposition Free Democrats (FDP), with whom Merkel hopes to forge a centre-right majority, are at 6 per cent to 8 per cent.

Given strong support for a newly founded Left Party comprised of eastern Germany's post-communists and a western leftist group the WASG, some analysts predict Merkel's CDU/CSU-FDP bloc will fall short of a parliamentary majority.

Speculation has focused in past weeks on a possible grand coalition between Merkel's CDU/CSU and Schroeder's SPD - however both leaders insist they do not want to form such a government.

But a leading political scientist predicted another coalition which may keep Schroeder in power if the CDU/CSU-FDP fails to get a majority.

Writing in the newspaper Die Welt, Franz Walter of the University of Goettingen says Schroeder may seek to stay in power by adding the FDP to his SPD-Greens government after September 18.

This is not as far-fetched as it might seem. The SPD and FDP ruled Germany together from 1969 to 1982 under SPD chancellors Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt. An SPD-FDP government has successfully governed Rhineland-Palatinate state for years.

Nevertheless, it would be tricky for Schroeder to get the pro-business FDP in the same boat as the Greens party.

DPA

Subject: German news

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