Merkel Shifts Focus to Economy Warning SPD Tax Plans Cost Jobs
Chancellor Angela Merkel turned the campaign focus to her stewardship of Europe’s biggest economy, warning that plans by the opposition Social Democrats to raise taxes would upend Germany’s robust labor market.
Merkel used a rally in the eastern town of Wernigerode yesterday to dismiss the notion that the government must create jobs, instead touting her Christian Democratic Union party’s alliance with business. She redoubled her attacks on SPD chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck’s planned tax increases for the wealthier as “poison” for the economy.
Merkel is campaigning on her record of driving unemployment down near a two-decade low and sheltering Germany from the worst of the euro-region debt crisis as she seeks a third term in the Sept. 22 election. Her case was bolstered today by figures showing the German economy picked up speed in the second quarter, driven by consumption and a rebound in investment.
Backing for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, held at 41 percent in an FG Wahlen poll for ZDF television released today, while her Free Democratic coalition partner gained a point to 6 percent. That’s enough to secure a rerun for Merkel’s current government if repeated on Election Day, and the first time in almost four years this poll has shown a majority for the present coalition, ZDF said.
Steinbreuck’s SPD and its Greens party ally were both unchanged, at 25 percent and 13 percent respectively. The anti-capitalist Left Party held at 8 percent. FG Wahlen polled 1,287 voters on Aug. 20-22. The results have a margin of error of as much as 3 percentage points.
One month before the election, Germany’s jobless rate of 6.8 percent is almost half the 17-nation euro-area average, while economic growth of 0.7 percent in the second quarter helped lead the region out of its longest-ever recession.
Against that backdrop, Steinbrueck has so far failed to put a dent in the chancellor’s popularity with a platform of wealth distribution and social justice. Little more a quarter -- 28 percent -- of respondents to the FG Wahlen poll said they thought Germany would be more “socially just” under an SPD-Greens government. Just 18 percent said they expected the SPD to improve its score in the polls.
The SPD tried to open a new front against Merkel this week over the cost of the debt crisis, accusing her of attempting to conceal the need for a third Greek aid program until after the election. Steinbrueck seized on comments made by Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Aug. 20 that Greece will need additional funds, saying it was proof the government’s crisis policies weren’t working.
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