German elections turn nasty before Sunday poll
13 September 2005, BERLIN - The German election campaign turned increasingly dirty Tuesday, the opposing candidates accusing each other of deception, even though opinion polls continue to show a coalition of their respective parties is a likely outcome of Sunday's election.
13 September 2005
BERLIN - The German election campaign turned increasingly dirty Tuesday, the opposing candidates accusing each other of deception, even though opinion polls continue to show a coalition of their respective parties is a likely outcome of Sunday's election.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his challenger Angela Merkel traded angry allegations of misinformation over their respective financial policies in a televised debate Monday evening.
Merkel's conservative alliance of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) allege that Schroeder's government is holding back a list of cuts in social services until after the elections.
Schroeder denied the existence of a list, allegedly drawn up by Finance Minister Hans Eichel, that was leaked over the weekend. It referred to cuts of 30 billion euros.
Schroeder said ministry officials backing the opposition were probably the authors of the list. Finance Ministry spokesman Stefan Giffeler said there had been a clear breach of ministry rules and that a thorough investigation was underway.
Merkel's choice of finance minister, Paul Kirchhof, continues to draw fire from Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) and their Greens coalition partners, who allege he plans to introduce a flat rate income tax of 25 per cent.
"That professor from Heidelberg has no understanding of the people... and if he is on the CDU team they should be rejected by the voters," Schroeder said.
Merkel stood by Kirchhof. "If the voters agree, then Paul Kirchhof will be finance minister," she said, accusing Schroeder of insulting the academic.
There were no plans to introduce a flat tax, Merkel said, adding that CDU/CSU tax policy was clearly laid out in the party manifesto.
Nevertheless, there was evident concern in party ranks over the controversy, with calls for a prominent role for Friedrich Merz, a charismatic figure within the CDU.
The tax and finance expert has clashed with Merkel and resigned his post as chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in September 2002.
Sluggish growth, unemployment running at close to 5 million and Germany's generous social benefits are at the centre of the election campaign.
Schroeder alleges Merkel will dismantle the welfare state, while Merkel insists that economic reforms are needed to kickstart the economy.
Both leaders once again rejected forming a grand coalition, an outcome that has been widely discussed in Germany.
Merkel aims to form a coalition with the liberal FDP, while Schroeder is striving to retain power for his SPD/Greens coalition.
The dark horse in the race remains the new Left Party, which combines former communists from the East with the followers of maverick Oscar Lafointaine, who has broken away from the SPD.
German polls show Merkel's alliance leading Schroeder's, but just lacking the support needed to govern on its own.
Although the polls indicate a leftwing combination of SPD, Greens and the Left might hold a narrow majority, Schroeder has rejected forming an alliance with the Left.
Subject: German news