Rival hammers Merkel at biggest campaign rally to date
By Celine Le Prioux, AFPBERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's struggling rival in next month's general election attempted to revive his campaign at the weekend by attacking her euro policy at his biggest rally to date.
August 19, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Peer Steinbrueck, candidate for the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD), said Merkel was hurting both Germans and the citizens of the ailing eurozone countries with an unwavering focus on enforcing budgetary rigor rather than spurring growth.
“Cuts, cuts, only cuts — that is not going to get the (eurozone) countries out of trouble,” said Steinbrueck, who served as finance minister under Merkel during her first 2005-2009 term in a left-right “grand coalition.”
Blasting a yawning wealth gap in Europe's top economy, he also called for an across-the-board minimum wage in Germany, which has done without one until now.
“It's not only fairer but also makes sense economically because it creates spending power,” Steinbrueck said, in a full-throated, 40-minute speech that was frequently interrupted by applause.
“Freedom, justice, solidarity — those are the values I want to promote as chancellor.”
Steinbrueck, 66, was speaking at a celebration of the SPD's 150th birthday at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate running throughout the weekend, where the party said up to 300,000 people had gathered on Saturday alone.
But he is the clear underdog in the Sept. 22 vote, as a new poll on Sunday showed.
Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats have 40-percent support, according to the survey for Bild am Sonntag newspaper, while the SPD scored just 24 percent — one point above its record-low result in the 2009 election.
Merkel's pro-business coalition partners, the Free Democrats, tallied 6 percent, potentially giving the allies another ruling majority with five weeks to go until election day.
The race has proved lackluster so far, with Merkel only returning from a two-week holiday in the Alps last week.