German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bearing as a frugal “housewife” on Greece and other troubled euro nations is a campaign vote-winner that won’t change after election day, a regional leader of her party said.
“The Swabian housewife, who doesn’t spend money without getting something in return, is seen by voters as the right leader for Germany in the crisis,” Michael Schierack, who heads Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the eastern state of Brandenburg, said yesterday in an interview in the capital, Potsdam. People who think Merkel will loosen aid terms to Greece and other countries after elections “are fooling themselves.”
Schierack, 46, a surgeon specialized in knee operations and sports medicine, said the debt crisis and concern over financial security are the main topics when he talks to voters. “But there’s still a very good mood in Germany right now, much better than in past elections,” he said. “People want continuity and this will help Merkel and the CDU.”
His optimism is reflected in polls. Less than three weeks before the Sept. 22 vote that will determine who leads Europe’s biggest economy, Germany’s seven leading polling companies show Merkel’s CDU-led bloc leading her main challenger Peer Steinbrueck’s Social Democrats by 14-17 percentage points.
Schierack, speaking in his office in Brandenburg’s state parliament, formerly the Prussian War Academy and after World War II the ruling Communist Party’s headquarters, said his biggest concern for Merkel’s re-election had been possible military intervention in Syria and pressure on Germany to join.
In 2002, SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder used his opposition to the looming Iraq War as a campaign plank that helped secure his re-election. Merkel, then the opposition leader in Berlin, backed the Iraq war.
“British Prime Minister Cameron’s defeat in Parliament and Obama going to Congress for a vote on military action means this threat has been defused,” said Schierack, sitting under a portrait of Konrad Adenauer, a founder of the CDU and West Germany’s first postwar chancellor.
A further worry for the CDU, he said, is that the SPD and its preferred coalition partner, the Greens, will break a pledge not to ally with the Left Party -- the successor to East Germany’s Communists. Steinbrueck has repeatedly said he won’t enter into a coalition with the Left, which currently rules Brandenburg state as junior partner to the SPD. Polls show an SPD-Greens-Left alliance gaining 43-46 percent of the vote.
“There’s a big danger that the SPD would go for such an alliance if the math works -- I don’t believe the SPD when they say they won’t do it,” he said. “Steinbrueck could build a bridge for such a coalition and then serve as SPD leader in parliament in order to save face. It might be a minority SPD-Greens government backed by the Left Party.”
Schierack is opposition leader in Brandenburg, the only one of six eastern German states where Merkel’s CDU isn’t in power. Backing for the CDU in the state has risen since he became party chairman in November 2012. An Infratest poll last month gave the CDU 30 percent in the state, compared with 33 percent for the ruling SPD. In the last regional vote in 2009, the CDU got 19.8 percent, compared with the SPD’s 33 percent. The next state election is due in 2014.
Schierack said one the SPD’s biggest debacles has been construction of Berlin’s new airport, located in Brandenburg. It was supposed to open in 2011 yet has been repeatedly delayed and currently has no planned opening date.
“The state’s SPD-led government has completely failed with the airport,” Schierack said. “Businesses need an opening date, otherwise they won’t invest.”
Schierack is one of several leading eastern German politicians who hail from the natural sciences and medicine. Merkel is a physicist as is the CDU prime minister of Saxony-Anhalt state, Reiner Haseloff. The CDU prime minister of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, is a trained engineer.
“I studied medicine as did many others in East Germany because we wanted a discipline that wasn’t ideological,” said Schierack, who is a doctor for the Cottbus White Devils basketball team and keeps emergency medical supplies in his parliament office.
“I’m happy to treat patients from any party,” he said with a grin. “I get lots of people with back pains, tennis elbow and stomach problems.”
Schierack said he began studying medicine in East Berlin in 1988 “with a view of the Berlin Wall” and that his biggest wish had been to travel. After the 1990 reunification, he worked and studied in Britain, the U.S., Canada and Australia before returning to practice medicine in his native Cottbus, the state’s No. 2 city after Potsdam in terms of population.
Brandenburg, with a population of 2.4 million, surrounds the city state of Berlin and comprises the heart of what was called Prussia until the name was abolished by the victorious allies in 1947 after World War II.
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