Merkel unveils competenceteam as poll shows new gain
17 August 2005, BERLIN - Angela Merkel, Germany's Christian Democratic chancellor candidate, unveiled a shadow cabinet on Wednesday including a flat tax reformer as a new poll showed her party again expanding its lead over Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
17 August 2005
BERLIN - Angela Merkel, Germany's Christian Democratic chancellor candidate, unveiled a shadow cabinet on Wednesday including a flat tax reformer as a new poll showed her party again expanding its lead over Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Merkel presented a nine-member 'competence team' of which she said eight members were ready to join her cabinet if she wins Germany's September 18 general election.
"Germany is in its worst crisis since the creation of the Federal Republic ... we have five million unemployed," said Merkel at a news conference in Berlin.
Paul Kirchhof, a former Federal Constitutional Court judge who now sits on Deutsche Bank's supervisory board, will be put in charge of finances, she said.
Kirchhof wants to radically overhaul Germany's highly complex tax system and calls for slashing the highest tax rate to 25 per cent, down from the current rate of 42 per cent.
To finance this move, Kirchhof wants to eliminate all tax subsidies, paybacks and loopholes.
This proposal, it must be noted, is far too radical for Merkel's CDU/CSU. In its election manifest, the party promises to only cut the highest tax rate by a mere three percentage points.
Kirchhof had opposed Merkel's plan to raise value added tax to 18 per cent from 16 per cent at present. But he told reporters he now accepted the move because the revenue would assist families.
Other key figures in Merkel's campaign team are Saar state Prime Minister Peter Mueller, who is responsible for economic policy.
Mueller has slashed bureaucracy and subsidies in his economically weak western German state and helped create thousands of new jobs.
Charged with domestic security is Guenther Beckstein, the law and order interior minister of Bavaria state.
Wolfgang Schaeuble, a former leader of the CDU and foreign policy expert, is to be put in charge of foreign affairs.
Schaeuble, who has been confined to a wheelchair after being shot at an election rally in 1990, calls for improving ties to the United States and for barring Turkey from joining the European Union.
"(He) stands for a self-confident transatlantic policy," said Merkel, adding this did not mean she planned to downgrade ties with Russia.
Other team members are: Ursula von der Leyen, a 46-year-old mother of seven children who is currently social affairs minister in Lower Saxony state; Annete Schavan, who is education minister in Baden- Wuerttemberg state; Gerda Hasselfeldt, a former minister for health and construction under chancellor Helmut Kohl in charge of consumer and agriculture affairs; and parliament vice-president Norbert Lammert in charge of culture.
The only team member not slated to join a Merkel cabinet is Dieter Althaus, Thuringia state premier, who will be in charge of eastern German coordination with the federal government, said Merkel.
Meanwhile, two new polls Wednesday both showed Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) continues to lead Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD).
While one voter surveys mirrors the trend of the past weeks with Merkel's party slowly losing support, a second poll showed the CDU/CSU was bouncing back and again increasing its lead over the Chancellor's SPD.
An Allensbach poll showed the CDU/CSU declining to just under 42 per cent, but bucking this trend was a Forsa poll for Focus magazine which gave the CDU/CSU a gain of 1 point to 43 per cent.
The CDU/CSU is struggling with comments made by CSU Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber which were highly critical of eastern Germans.
Stoiber complained that east Germans or 'Ossis' were frustrated and described those who planned to vote for the revamped East German communist Left Party as "stupid calves" who were "choosing their own butcher."
Interestingly, the Forsa poll showed Merkel's CDU was again leading in economically hard hit eastern Germany, despite the remarks, with 31 per cent, followed by 29 per cent for the SPD and 26 per cent for the Left Party which had previously been in first place.
Nationwide, Schroeder's SPD is at almost 28 per cent in the Allensbach poll and 29 per cent according to Forsa.
Most analysts say the Chancellor's SPD-Greens coalition has no chance of winning re-election given that the Greens are stable at between 7 and 8 per cent.
But if the CDU/CSU continues to sink, its planned coalition with the Free Democrats (FDP) - currently polling 7 to 8 per cent - may fail to gain a majority in parliament.
This would likely lead to a grand coalition with Merkel as chancellor and Schroeder's SPD serving as junior partner.
"I am very optimistic that we can win," said Merkel.
Subject: German news