German Green Premier Voices Election Concern at SPD

Germany’s first Green state leader criticized the campaign of his party’s chosen coalition partner, urging the Social Democrats to let chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck “be himself” to improve their electoral chances.

Winfried Kretschmann, the prime minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, also left the door open to a potential coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats after the Sept. 22 election, saying that it makes no sense to rule out such an alliance even if it’s not his preferred option.

The comments by Germany’s most senior elected Green official reflect the opposition’s difficulty in finding ways to attack Merkel with unemployment near a two-decade low, the economy growing and voter support for her handling of the euro-area debt crisis. A poll today showed Merkel extending her lead over the main opposition SPD little more than five weeks before the vote.

While the Greens’ campaign has begun well, “out of the corner of our eye what naturally concerns us is that our preferred coalition partner hasn’t yet got going properly,” Kretschmann, 65, said in an interview yesterday in the garden of his official villa overlooking Stuttgart, the state capital. “We can’t agonize over the situation with the SPD. They can only solve the problem themselves.”

Kretschmann’s comments come on the heels of criticism by former SPD leader Franz Muentefering in Die Zeit newspaper on Aug. 13 that Steinbrueck had been given no backing by the party, and the campaign “made his hair stand on end.”

‘Be Himself’

Steinbrueck “has to be himself and shouldn’t let himself be browbeaten,” Kretschmann said. “He’s rough around the edges,” yet bringing an “authentic” personality into the campaign “is the only way, because anything else won’t work.”

The SPD dropped two percentage points to 25 percent in an FG Wahlen poll for ZDF television published today. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, had 41 percent, up one point since the last poll on Aug. 2.

The Greens also lost a point to 13 percent, while Merkel’s Free Democratic coalition partner held at 5 percent. The Left Party rose a point to 8 percent. FG Wahlen polled 1,316 voters on Aug. 13-15. The results have a margin of error of as much as 3.1 percentage points.

Kretschmann has ruled in Baden-Wuerttemberg since 2011, when he ended 58 years of uninterrupted CDU rule after a surge in Green support in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, allowing him to form a coalition with the SPD as junior partner. Asked if his party should consider aligning with Merkel’s CDU-led bloc at national level after next month’s election, he reiterated his preference for a Green alliance with the Social Democrats.

“If the voter decides differently, you have to be open for other solutions,” he said. “I don’t hold any store by exclusionism. The country has to be governed, and if the desired coalition doesn’t materialize, then another one has to take its place. We hopefully wouldn’t watch that but would get involved.”

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