Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to keep Europe whole as she presses the euro area to become as competitive as Germany, honing her campaign message at a seaside rally in her home district two months before federal elections.
Addressing a sun-drenched rally of her Christian Democratic Union in the Baltic Sea resort town of Zingst yesterday, Merkel said that growing up under Communism underpins her defense of European values. Europeans must stand together to compete in the global economy and to regulate financial markets, she said.
“These are Europe’s treasures and we want to preserve them -- that’s why it’s worth standing up for Europe,” she told the crowd of about 1,500. “I and the CDU will fight for a Europe that’s fit for global competition but also a Europe that is our home, because that makes us stronger. Because how do we want to achieve goals -- how can we make sure that financial markets are regulated -- if we don’t speak with one voice in Europe?”
Merkel, 59, is seeking a third term as leader of Europe’s biggest economy on the strength of shielding Germany from the worst of the euro-region debt crisis and presiding over the lowest unemployment in about two decades. While her bloc leads Peer Steinbrueck’s opposition Social Democrats by as many as 18 percentage points in polls, Germany’s electoral system means she needs a coalition partner to govern and cannot rely on victory.
“Angela Merkel has momentum for her current government but she’s not there yet,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London, said yesterday in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “She seems to have learned some of the tricks” of campaigning compared to previous elections, and “so far in this campaign she’s doing OK,” he said.
Taking her re-election bid to the former East German region where she holds her parliamentary seat for the first time in the campaign for the Sept. 22 elections, Merkel said that Germany has achieved a lot in the past four years, yet the project is far from completed.
Evoking her message at the European Union level that there’s no quick way out of the debt crisis, she acknowledged the region’s economic struggles including “great fears” for the future of shipbuilding at Stralsund, her district’s biggest city, and a lack of jobs that’s driving young people to leave and seek work in southern Germany.
“On the other hand, we see here how much has been achieved since German reunification,” including with the help of government aid for the formerly Communist east, she said. Education is the key to doing well, she said, just as there’s no substitute to working hard to stay ahead in the global economy.
She touted her government’s efforts in moving Germany toward a balanced budget, saying it’s “a deeply moral matter” that an aging society doesn’t spend at the expense of future generations. That, Merkel said, is “the offer” she and her party are making to voters.
Merkel spoke in Zingst on the first of three Baltic campaign rallies yesterday after three North Sea appearances on July 19. CDU officials meanwhile announced a schedule of 56 Merkel rallies over 31 days starting Aug. 14 as she seeks to fend off Steinbrueck, her first-term finance minister turned challenger, and win enough support for a rerun of her current coalition with the Free Democrats.
As during her rally last week, Merkel didn’t mention Steinbrueck by name, although she praised her Social Democratic predecessor Gerhard Schroeder for pushing through labor-market and welfare and tax changes the SPD now says it would partly reverse if elected. “It’s gotten to the point where I have to praise my predecessor because the others won’t do it,” she said, referring to the Social Democrats.
Support for Merkel’s CDU-led bloc dropped one percentage point to 40 percent in an Emnid poll published two days ago that showed the SPD also down a point at 25 percent. Merkel’s Free Democratic partner gained a point to 6 percent, while the SPD’s Green party allies were also up a point at 13 percent. Emnid polled 1,854 voters on July 11-17. No margin of error was given.
The proliferation of “other parties” taking votes without gaining seats means that a combined 46 percent on Election Day may be enough for Merkel to continue her current coalition, Deutsche Bank AG said in a note to clients.
“While chances have increased that the new government will be the old one -- implying a very broad continuity in terms of policy and personnel terms -- the uncertainties attached to polls leave a grand coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD a valid option,” the bank said.
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