His comments apparently denigrating east Germans are dominating the press back home and damaging the Conservative cause a month before Germany’s general election. But on a trip to the south of France, Bavarian leader, Edmund Stoiber has been defending his position. He denies calling east Germans “frustrated”. Stoiber, president of the Christian Socialists, insists his words were taken out of context. He says what he really said was that a new left-wing party which is doing well in the polls, was benefiting from the frustration felt by some in the east.
Stoiber refused to apologise for his comments which have given Christian Democrat chief, Angela Merkel a major headache. At a wreath-laying ceremony commemorating the building of the Berlin Wall, yesterday, she would not be drawn on the issue saying it was not a day for campaigning. But Stoiber’s CSU is the CDU’s electoral partner. And since his comments Merkel has seen her apparently unassailable lead in the polls shrink dangerously.
Gerhard Schroeder has been quick to capitalise on the conservative’s troubles. Officially launching his campaign for a third term in office, the Social Democrat condemned the “strong-arm tactics and tastelessness” of Stoiber. Schroeder had been expected to lose this election, now he is back in with a chance.