Far-left tries to shout down Merkel at rally

2nd September 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 September 2005, POTSDAM, GERMANY - Angry supporters of Germany's far-left tried to shout down conservative chancellor candidate Angela Merkel at a rally Thursday in what appeared to be an organised attempt to disrupt the frontrunner's campaign.

2 September 2005

POTSDAM, GERMANY - Angry supporters of Germany's far-left tried to shout down conservative chancellor candidate Angela Merkel at a rally Thursday in what appeared to be an organised attempt to disrupt the frontrunner's campaign.

About 1,000 supporters of Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) turned out for a rally on a sultry summer evening at Potsdam's 18th century Brandenburg Gate, topped with stone cannons, lances and battle axes.

But Merkel's speech was constantly interrupted by about 50 young men, dressed in black with dark sunglasses who yelled insults, blew whistles and swirled loud rattles.

"Nazis out", "Hypocrite!" and "Go home you slut!" were all part of the repertoire heard by the entire crowd for well over an hour.

Some of the men waved flags of the former East German Communist party, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which has merged with a western protest group to form the new Left Party which polls show could win up to 10 per cent in Germany's September 18 elections.

Asked if they were PDS party members the men refused to answer.

Such disruptions have become standard at Merkel's rallies in eastern Germany. In the economically depressed city of Cottbus last month a similarly well-organised group of leftists shouted and jeered.

Numerous police stood by but apart from ejecting several protesters who entered a controlled area in front of the stage, they let the group express its views.

Merkel, who is getting used to such receptions, took it in her stride.

"For all those who are yelling - would you care to remember that 15 years ago this would never have been allowed," said Merkel in reference to the ban on public protests in the hardline communist East German state which ceased to exist with the 1990 reunification.

Merkel grinned and added: "Now, if you would just learn to listen we would be a step further." Her supporters cheered and held aloft orange 'Angie' signs.

The candidate then launched into her standard speech which is heavy on concrete details including an extra EUR 8,000 annual tax exemption for each child and a EUR 50 a month to state pension contributions for people with children.

Jobs are Merkel's top theme and the main stick she uses to bash Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democratic (SPD) alliance with the Greens.

With unemployment at a grim 11.4 per cent, Merkel vowed her government would slash bureaucracy and loosen Germany's tough laws preventing hire-and-fire in order to stimulate growth and jobs.

Isabelle Butz, a 22-year-old student, nodded in agreement.

"I'm studying economics and for me her tax arguments make sense," said Butz.

But Gabi Schulter, aged 41, shook her head. "Merkel is just doing things for the rich people - I can't vote for her."

Turning to a regional issue, Merkel asked why not one square metre of concrete has been poured for Berlin's new international airport despite 15 years of talk by politicians.

"In Spain the planning process takes five or six years but in Germany 15 or 20 years," said Merkel, adding: "Planning laws must be streamlined."

Wrapping up her speech, Merkel called on those present to sing the Deutschland Lied or German national anthem.

The crowd rose from beer benches on the cobble-stoned square and belted out the haunting tune to Haydn's melody.

From the back the men in black raised clenched fists and yelled "Nazis out!"

Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance with the Free Democrats would currently win 50 to 51.3 per cent, according to four of Germany's top six opinion polls. The other two polls give her bloc 49 per cent.

Chancellor Schroeder's SPD-Greens government at between 36 per cent and 39 per cent.

DPA

Subject: German news

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