Campaign 2002: Off to a Rotten Start

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Campaign 2002: Off to a Rotten Start

28.01.02 22:06
Weekly Review: Neither Schröder nor Stoiber set off on the right foot.

With national elections in Germany eight months away, the two main candidates have just about got their campaign teams together. They're settling on themes and slogans, polishing their rhetoric and have agreed in principle to nationally televised debates. Campaign 2002 is underway. This week brought Chancellor Gerhard Schröder a bit of good news and lots and lots of bad news.

First the good news. Edmund Stoiber, the newly anointed candidate for the conservative Christian Democratic Union, has surprised everyone by bumbling aimlessly through two important television interviews. Getting his names and numbers mixed up along the way, Stoiber has been launching sentences that wander off into nowhereland. On the one hand, unless he gets his act together, this is a serious blow to the CDU, which had been counting on Stoiber's feisty persona to offset Schröder's Clintonian media appeal.

On the other hand -- and here's the first bit of bad news for Schröder -- when voters decide it's time for a right turn, they take it, no matter how ineloquent the candidate. Three words: George Dubya Bush. As for Europe, though, take a quick look at  this map which ran in a recent issue of Der Spiegel. You'll see that the social democratic governments that took power throughout the continent in the mid to late 90s, shaded red, are still holding on in the middle; rightish governments, shaded blue, are the upstarts at the edges.

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Worse, a short  run-down in last week's Observer shows how precarious that social democratic hold is on the center of Europe. For starters, Chirac could easily take France, Portugal's socialists are slipping, and so on.

But the worst news of all for Schröder is the performance of his own government. Particularly in the last week, one screw-up or another has dominated the headlines. In brief:

-- Since late 2000, the government has sought to ban a group of ultranationalist xenophobic right-wing thugs disguising themselves as a political party, the National Democratic Party (NPD). Then came revelations that decisive evidence in the case was provided by at least one German intelligence service informant who'd infiltrated the NPD. A high court in Karlsruhe had little choice but to toss the whole case out. The goof has led to calls for the resignation of Interior Minister Otto Schily.

-- On Friday, a group of government, management and union leaders called the Alliance for Jobs met for a few hours, bickered and then adjourned, having decided on nada. Unemployment was Schröder's number one issue in the 1998 campaign and, with the rate nudging 10 percent, it may be Stoiber's in 2002. When these talks collapsed, Schröder tried to accentuate the positive: In these trying times, what with the German economy floundering and all, it's a wonder you can get the unions and the suits to sit down together in the first place. "No, Mr. Schröder," countered the usually sympathetic Berliner Zeitung, "this meeting was not a success. It was a disaster."

-- In 1999, Schröder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel rammed through the largest cuts in taxes and spending in German postwar history. In part, the gist of this not-so-social democratic reform was to spur growth by granting corporations the chunkiest tax cuts of all. Now it turns out some of Germany's largest companies are figuring out ways to avoid paying any taxes at all. Even Eichel's fellow social democrats are fuming.

-- Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told European partners Germany would buy 73 of the military transport planes they're building together. The problem is that the total cost would come in at 8.6 billion euros though parliament had only approved 5.1 billion for the purchase. The opposition is kicking up a storm. Scharping had been in political hot water all last year anyway; the last thing he needed was another mudslinging fest in the press.

Not that he's seriously considering it now, but if any of these messes get messier, Schröder can't afford to ditch Schily, Eichel or Scharping months before the election because his cabinet is already perceived as having come equipped with a revolving door. In a pinch, he could counter perceptions of political instability with a strong performance in those television debates, particularly if Stoiber goes on mumbling incoherently. But ultimately, come September, if one out of ten Germans is without a job, with the other nine worrying about theirs, and the Social Democrats, of all parties, can't guarantee a return to economic security, voters will turn elsewhere.
Campaign 2002: Off to a Rotten Start Schnorrer

Politische Kommentare aus Anglo-Amerikansichen

Sprachräumen haben immer die Süffisanz der ungebremsten Selbstreferenzierung, gepaart mit der Hintertür des rückgratlosen Interpretationsspielraums.

Mit "Clintonia media appeal" wird eine Geschichte erzählt, die ähnliche Assoziationswellen auslöst wie bei uns z. B. die Anrede "Watt, wer bist Du denn?". Und die sonst keiner versteht.

der schnorrer empfiehlt: englischsprachiges nur zum Heizen verwenden.

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