by Jerome a Paris
Fri Aug 5th, 2005 at 05:49:05 AM EST
It's not the holidays for everybody this month in Germany:
Schroder hits campaign trail to sway voters
With fewer than 50 days until the September 18 election, Gerhard Schröder, Germany's embattled chancellor, took to the campaign trail on Wednesday night, accusing the election favourites, the opposition Christian Democrats, of "being unfit to govern".
Looking bronzed and unusually rested after a short holiday, Mr Schröder told a rally of his Social Democratic party in Hamburg that globalisation and an ageing population meant there was no alternative to his government's tough - but unpopular - welfare and labour market reforms.
"We fought for these and it's worth fighting to continue them," he said. But among the cheering supporters in this working-class quarter were hecklers to remind Mr Schröder that he is on the defensive. "You're destroying the welfare state," shouted a man with a middle finger raised.
So unpopular are the reforms, pushed through by the coalition between the SPD and Green party, that the two combined trail the conservative opposition of Christian Democrats and Liberals by 15 percentage points in national polls.
But to remind voters of reductions in state benefits or to flag new measures could infuriate his party's left wing and further boost the new Left party, a thriving alliance of east German former communists and dissident Social Democrats.
Nevertheless, a gravely weakened SPD could still return to government after September 18. The conservative bloc of Christian Democrats and Liberals is now teetering at 50 per cent in some polls. Should it fail to gain a majority of the vote, only a "grand coalition" of Christian and Social Democrats could control parliament.
This has divided the SPD's grandees and spurred a vociferous debate about the best outcome for the party on voting day: opposition or grand coalition?
Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin, argues that an alliance of left and right would agree only on lowest common denominators and thus hinder further reforms. "The SPD would lose its profile and many voters would drift to the left and abandon us," he said. The new Left party was, after all, already sapping the SPD's strength.
I have a question for our German readers on this:
Does this represent a shift away from the center and towards their "hardcore" bases for both parties, or general move to the right of the German electorate, with a strong reaction against this from the harder part of the left? Or is it just a movement against Schroeder?