Thousands of Protesters Join Berlin March Against Merkel's Nuclear Plans
Tens of thousands of nuclear-power opponents marched through downtown Berlin to show their disapproval of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal to let German reactors run as much as 14 years longer than planned.
About 100,000 people took part in today’s protest, which went past the Federal Chancellery, where Merkel has her office, Christoph Bautz, a spokesman for the organizers, said in a telephone interview. Berlin police spokeswoman Claudia Frank said the number exceeded the 30,000 demonstrators expected by organizers. She declined to give a more precise estimate.
“This is the broadest resistance yet” to the extension of nuclear power, Claudia Roth, leader of the opposition Greens party said in comments aired on N-TV television. “This is a signal.”
The anti-nuclear march, along with a rally in Stuttgart the same day against a high-speed rail project that is backed by Merkel’s party, suggests she may fail to translate Germany’s economic recovery into political capital.
“There’s a very good argument that the economy as an issue is favorable for the government, but they just can’t manage to bring that through,” Oskar Niedermayer, a professor of political sociology at Berlin’s Free University, said by phone.
One year after Merkel’s re-election at the head of a coalition of her choosing during the worst recession since World War II, unemployment is approaching a 19-year low and second- quarter growth was the fastest since records for a reunified Germany began in 1991. Yet support for her coalition is at historically low levels and declining.
The government agreed on Sept. 5 to prolong the lifespan of German nuclear power plants by as much as 14 years in exchange for renewable-energy funding.
The deal amounts to a repeal of a 2002 law that would force the closure of all nuclear plants by about 2022, a key plank in Merkel’s 2009 re-election campaign. Her Cabinet will consider the extension on Sept. 28.
Backing for the chancellor’s Christian Democratic Union and its CSU Bavarian ally slid 1 percentage point to 30 percent in a Forsa poll published Sept. 15, giving her coalition with the Free Democrats a combined 35 percent. That’s almost 14 points below the level at last September’s election.
The high-speed rail project in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg involves demolishing a train station in the capital, Stuttgart, as part one of the country’s largest public infrastructure projects that critics say is overblown.
Demonstrations in Stuttgart have helped the state opposition, and polls suggest the CDU might lose power in regional elections next March. Merkel’s party has governed the state, home to carmakers Daimler AG and Porsche SE, since 1952. In a Sept. 15 speech to parliament, Merkel said the state election will be a referendum on the project and on her federal government.
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