German challenger admits tough fighting Merkel

13th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

A poll released this week by the independent Forsa institute showed Steinmeier's Social Democrats (SPD) trailing Merkel's conservative Christian Union bloc with 21 percent support to 37 percent.

Berlin -- The beleaguered challenger to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in September's general election said last week that their awkward power-sharing arrangement was cramping his ability to campaign against her.

"Neither of the parties that formed the grand coalition can distance themselves completely from what they have done together," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the foreign press association, adding that the arrangement made it hard for him to criticise his opponent.

"I cannot say -- and neither can Frau Merkel -- that everything we achieved these last four years was bad," said Steinmeier, who serves as Merkel's vice-chancellor in the coalition government.

A poll released this week by the independent Forsa institute showed Steinmeier's Social Democrats (SPD) trailing Merkel's conservative Christian Union bloc with 21 percent support to 37 percent.

If the election were held this Sunday, Merkel would be able to dump the conservatives' traditional rivals, the Social Democrats, and form a ruling majority with their preferred partners, the pro-business Free Democrats, the poll indicated.

Merkel has managed to appear an adept manager of the crisis in Europe's biggest economy as it faces its worst recession since World War II, despite criticism that she was slow to react to the precipitous downturn.

Meanwhile Steinmeier, who was the architect of biting labour market reforms under Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, has found it difficult to sell himself as a fierce defender of German jobs in tough times.

However the 53-year-old dismissed the notion that Merkel would be swept to a second term.

"It's not over," he said. "I remain confident in the fact that the SPD has a good chance of winning this election."

AFP/Expatica

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