SPD backs chairman in benefit controversy

22nd October 2007, Comments 0 comments

22 October 2007, Berlin (dpa) - The executive of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) Monday backed party chairman Kurt Beck in his controversial initiative to extend benefit payments to the older unemployed, in an attempt to end a highly public spat within the party.

22 October 2007

Berlin (dpa) - The executive of Germany's Social Democratic Party (SPD) Monday backed party chairman Kurt Beck in his controversial initiative to extend benefit payments to the older unemployed, in an attempt to end a highly public spat within the party.

The executive expressed overwhelming support for Beck, with only two votes cast against his initiative and one abstention in the 45- member executive, according to information emerging from the closed meeting.

After the meeting, Beck said he hoped the decision would put an end to the public conflict between him and SPD veteran Franz Muentefering, vice-chancellor and labour minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's broad coalition.

The decision came ahead of the annual party congress that begins in Hamburg on Friday, at which Beck is seen as certain to be confirmed as chairman.

The party, the junior partner in Merkel's government, meets with its ratings low in the polls halfway through the electoral cycle.

At the end of last month, Beck suggested paying older recipients of unemployment benefit at the full rate for longer than currently laid down, provoking a highly public conflict with Muentefering.

Beck, as premier of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate not a member of Merkel's cabinet, secured broad support from the SPD rank-and- file, although SPD cabinet ministers, such as Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have been muted in their responses.

Muentefering has stuck by his opposition to easing reforms that he played a major role in pushing through under Merkel's predecessor, SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The 67-year-old party veteran is seen as damaged by the controversy.

DPA

Subject: German news

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