SPD backs Schroeder's reforms
19 November 2003 , BOCHUM - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday won broad support from his Social Democrats for economic reforms aimed at jump-starting Germany's ailing economy.
19 November 2003
BOCHUM - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday won broad support from his Social Democrats for economic reforms aimed at jump-starting Germany's ailing economy.
Delegates from the Chancellor's Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted almost unanimously in favour of the Chancellor's tax, pension, health and labour reforms at the close of a three-day party congress in the Ruhr Valley city of Bochum.
Schroeder said the SPD had stuck to its social welfare values but he warned of tough times ahead given Germany's economic difficulties.
Although the more than 500 SPD delegates backed the reforms they punished several party leaders closely linked to Schroeder by reelecting them with slim majorities.
Schroeder's chief spin doctor, secretary general Olaf Scholz, was returned to office with just over 50 percent of the vote despite running unopposed.
A furious Schroeder reportedly attacked members of the SPD from his native Lower Saxony state for organising the "no" votes against Scholz.
"I'm going to get you guys," said Schroeder as quoted by the Neue Presse newspaper in an apparent threat to Lower Saxony's SPD leaders.
The Chancellor was returned to his post as SPD chairman on Monday with a better result of more than 80 percent.
Despite what Schroeder termed a successful party convention, analysts note that SPD support for Schroeder's reforms could swiftly erode.
This is because key government legislation has already been rejected in parliament's upper chamber, the Bundeserat, which is dominated by the opposition conservatives.
A mediation committee is seeking to hammer out compromise versions of the bills which will mean watering down elements dear to the hearts of many in the SPD.
With an eye to the revamped bills, Schroeder urged the SPD to back the government in what he termed its "difficult work in difficult times."
Germany's economy is expected to post zero growth this year and the unemployment rate, currently 10 percent, is set to rise during the winter.
Schroeder insists his reforms - which include tax cuts and reductions to Germany's social welfare net - are vital to support an economic recovery.
"The party approved this not because they are satisfied but because this is the way forward," said Schroeder in a Phoenix TV interview.
"We must get these laws passed in the interest of our country. We are ready to make compromises but compromise has its limits," concluded Schroeder.
Compromise reform bills are expected to be unveiled early next month and the government hopes to rush them through both houses of parliament so that can come into force on January 1, 2004.
Subject: German news