Merkel rebuts caricature of her party as obsessed with debt
(Bloomberg) German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the caricature of her party as obsessed with debt, instead telling an election rally that her budget record is an act of “generational justice.”
The German leader singled out Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble as the one who takes most of the flak for belt-tightening in her Christian Democratic Union. She also lauded the spending plans he’s produced.
At a rally of about 5,000 people in the western city of Münster, Merkel was flanked by Deputy Finance Minister Jens Spahn, a Schäuble ally on the party’s right wing who has challenged Merkel’s more centrist positions.
“Jens Spahn knows how much Wolfgang Schäuble is derided for being ‘the man who can only think about the balanced budget,”’ Merkel said in a campaign speech on Tuesday, before intoning her standard position on public debt as a burden on future generations.
“It would be the greatest form of injustice if we hand down ever bigger mountains of debt, so it’s right that we’ve pledged to generate no new debt over the next four years,” Merkel, 63, said. She is seeking a fourth presidential term at the election on September 24.
Even as Merkel has been a target across southern Europe throughout the debt crisis for her insistence on austerity, fiscal discipline is a bedrock position within her CDU base. It’s an issue that separates the chancellor from the Social Democratic Party, which is calling for more government spending while not prioritizing balanced budgets.
Merkel is running on a pledge of maintaining the balanced budget achieved during her current coalition, which includes the Social Democrats as junior partner. SPD challenger Martin Schulz this week, citing the latest surplus in tax receipts, demanded that more be spent on education, infrastructure and innovation.
Schulz, 61, opened up another front on the campaign on Tuesday, telling supporters that an SPD-led government would refuse to let the US base nuclear weapons in Germany. At a campaign stop in Trier near the Luxembourg border, he also renewed his party’s attacks on US President Donald Trump for pressing Germany to boost defense spending.
Support for Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led bloc declined one percentage point to 38 per cent and the Social Democrats rose one point to 24 per cent in a weekly Forsa poll published Wednesday. The two parties, Germany’s biggest, have governed together for eight of Merkel’s 12 years in office, including the last four.
The anti-capitalist Left and the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany polled nine per cent each, the Free Democrats eight per cent and the Greens seven per cent, according to Forsa. The Aug. 14-18 poll of 2,501 people has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
In Münster, a CDU-held city in Germany’s Westphalia region, Merkel addressed a relatively quiet crowd, a departure from several venues last week that featured jeering and whistling Alternative for Germany backers.