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June 23, 2017

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Merkel challenger blasts 'worst cabinet' in history

BERLIN--Former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck Monday slammed Angela Merkel's government as one of the worst in modern German history as he won unanimous party backing to challenge her at next year's elections.

Steinbrueck, 65, vowed an "exciting" and "fun" campaign in the run-up to the election that must take place in September or October 2013 as he attacked Merkel's record and promised greater regulation of the banking sector.

"I think that the ... vast majority of the cabinet — I admit there are maybe two exceptions — is one of the worst, maybe the worst cabinet in the history of the federal republic," he told supporters and reporters.

"This should not be a boring election campaign. This should not be a humorless campaign. There must be fun and a few jokes," said the feisty father-of-three from Hamburg.

The leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) earlier Monday unanimously elected Steinbrueck as their candidate to challenge Merkel ahead of his formal nomination at a party convention in December.

He said the election would be about "what type of society we want to live in" and called for tougher regulation on banks, including the establishment of a fund to protect taxpayers from having to bail lenders out.

Polls show Steinbrueck has an uphill struggle to unseat Merkel, nominated by Forbes Magazine as the world's most powerful woman, at the helm of Europe's top economy and political powerhouse.

Surveys have consistently placed her conservative CDU/CSU bloc around 10 points ahead of the Social Democrats as voters in Germany approve of Merkel's handling of the long-running eurozone debt crisis.

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