German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said his government has delivered on the economy as he cited a balanced budget and record-low joblessness among the reasons for voters to give the coalition four more years.
Schaeuble, addressing his first election campaign rally since returning from vacation, sprinkled a message of hope and economic achievement with warnings that voters can’t take a rerun of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government for granted. The coalition only has a 50-50 chance of being re-elected on Sept. 22, he told a crowd of about 300 people in the western town of Guetersloh yesterday.
“Over these past four years, the situation for people has improved,” Schaeuble said. All the same, “it’s going to be close,” he said. “It’s going to come down to every vote.”
Schaeuble pitched into the campaign that will determine who runs Europe’s biggest economy as Merkel maintains a poll lead over her Social Democratic challenger, Peer Steinbrueck, who served as finance minister in her first term. Merkel will campaign in Bavaria today, while Steinbrueck is due to appear At a rally with former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Schaeuble, who served as Merkel’s finance minister all through the debt crisis that emerged in Greece in 2009 at the start of her second term, stressed the uncertainty that would come with a change of government in Germany just as officials are “on the right path” to resolving the euro area’s woes.
Addressing the first of more than 30 campaign rallies he plans to hold in the run-up to the ballot, he cited the lower yields on Italian and Spanish bonds as evidence that financial markets “believe the euro will remain stable.”
“I’m not saying that the problems are resolved,” he said. “Only that we have to stay on this path,” ensuring that Europe becomes more competitive. “We don’t want a German Europe, but rather a strong Europe.”
Support for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, dropped one percentage point to 40 percent in a weekly Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag on Aug. 18. Her Free Democratic coalition partner gained a point to 6 percent, a result that would probably allow a repeat of the government if replicated on Election Day.
Steinbrueck’s SPD lost a point to 24 percent and its Green party ally was also down a point at 12 percent. The Left Party was unchanged at 8 percent. Emnid polled 1,883 voters on Aug. 8-14. No margin of error was given.
Schaeuble, who is due to hold four rallies today alone, urged Germans “to remember to see the wood beyond the trees,” saying the Merkel administration has kept its word on reducing unemployment and bringing down long-term joblessness in particular. “Rather than unemployment, our biggest problem is finding qualified workers,” he said.
He contrasted the government’s action on financial-market regulation with the election pledges of Steinbrueck, saying that “my valued predecessor -- a not-so valued candidate for chancellor -- promises things that are not so easy to implement in reality.”
Schaeuble, who will turn 71 on Sept. 18, four days before the election, said that he counts himself “among the young, hopeful CDU politicians.” He cited the recent increase in private consumption as evidence “the people have trust” and that “people say the end of the world is a way off ye.”
Neither has the euro collapsed, he told the audience. “Catastrophes will always be forecast,” he said. “But that’s not always quite true.”
Back at the start of Merkel’s second term, the opposition asked her where she wanted to be at the end of the legislative period, Schaeuble said. “The chancellor said if we’re where we were before the crisis, then that would be good,” he said. “And if we’re stronger, then that’d be really good. Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our goal. We have kept our word.”