Schroeder’s SPDfears poll debacle
4 February 2004
BERLIN – Fears are growing among Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats that the party faces defeat in a series of key German elections this year, reports said Wednesday.
The ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) remains stuck at record opinion poll lows with a Stern magazine/RTL TV survey showing the SPD at just 24 per cent, compared with 49 per cent for the conservative opposition.
“SPD fears election debacle,” was the how the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, which often backs Schroeder’s SPD-Greens coalition, headlined its lead story.
The paper quoted an unnamed top SPD politician as saying if things continued the party would lose all 14 of Germany’s state, local and European Parliament elections in 2004.
SPD leaders have given up hope of winning elections in the city state of Hamburg on 29 February, the paper noted. Latest polls show the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) incumbent winning a landslide absolute majority in Germany’s second largest city.
Left-wingers in Schroeder’s party say the main problem is the Chancellor’s determination to push reform of Germany’s social welfare state while cutting taxes not only for low-income families but also the rich and big business.
“We have lost the trust of our core voters,” complains Heike Maas, the SPD candidate in the western Saarland state.
Maas said the SPD had to stop passing reforms which placed more burdens on pensioners, the unemployed and people on social welfare.
Instead, Schroeder needed to raise inheritance taxes, create a more comprehensive social welfare insurance system and impose a new corporate tax to fund traineeships, he said.
But Schroeder, in a keynote speech to business leaders on Tuesday, mentioned none of these suggestions and pledged to forge ahead with reforms even if this meant losing some of the 2004 elections.
The Chancellor, who plans to run for a further term in Germany’s next scheduled general election in 2006, clearly hopes an improving economy will raise support with crucial centrist voters who helped him first win election in 1998.
Germany’s economy is indeed perking up.
GDP growth is projected to rise by up to 2 percent for this year and 2005 after three years of stagnation which culminated in negative growth of 0.1 percent in 2003.
Unemployment is still over 10 percent but expected to drop slightly during the current year before a steeper decline in 2005.
Subject: German news