The Chancellor is offering tax breaks for an eventual third term. Angela Merkel has not promised a clear figure on this in her electoral programme. But the German media has said the CDU-CSU conservative coalition candidate’s proposal would cost around 28 billion euros.
She said: “It is a programme which is measured and centred. It wouldn’t charge people anything extra, or charge the economy anything extra, because we think that by opening up areas of liberty and by motivating small and medium-sized companies and family companies as well as big ones, the chances of bringing in revenue are higher doing this than they’d be if we discouraged people by raising taxes.”
So, while taxes will not be raised, budgetary rigour will be maintained. Another CDU-CSU promise is aimed at appealing to families with children, adjusting how they calculate income tax, increasing family social allowances and mothers’ pensions.
All that is pretty attractive. But the conservatives’ biggest asset is actually Merkel herself. The Chancellor enjoys a 58 percent public approval rating, for what is perceived as her sound judgement and not being pretentious. She is way ahead of her main competitor for the chancellery.
The leader of the SPD has only 18 percent support. And Peer Steinbrück, who was a finance minister in Merkel’s grand coalition, has strongly criticised the conservatives’ electoral programme.
“These aren’t only senseless statements and empty promises,” he said. “We can’t help thinking that the CDU-CSU themselves don’t take their programme seriously. That’s evident in the programme because they don’t say how these crazy promises are going to be financed.”
There are still three months to go before the election. Merkel is not guaranteed success. The CDU-CSU public approval rating is 40 percent, while the government allies the FDP liberals have barely six percent support – the minimum needed to get into parliament.
The opposition SPD and the Greens and left (Die Linke) are at 45 percent – and it’s not likely that the left would accept a place in a future coalition government.
Andrea Büring, euronews: René Pfister from Der Spiegel magazine joins us now from Berlin. Mr Pfister, do you think that criticism of Merkel’s programme is justified?
René Pfister: Yes, it’s absolutely justified. I think the biggest problem of this election programme is that promises are made that cannot be paid. It’s in CDU’s interest that Angela Merkel as chancellor is at the centre of the election and not content or points about the policy. That’s why the programme has been made in a way that the SPD cannot attack it. All items like the minimum wage or quotas for women are in some way mentioned. That way one can say, the SPD shouldn’t complain because the CDU is for these items too. Their election programme are quite similar so there’s not much room for the SPD to attack it.
euronews: Doesn’t Angela Merkel risk losing credibility in Europe if she wants Greece to have harsh austerity programmes while at the same time domestically, she’s making election promises to spend some 28 billion euros?
René Pfister: “Yes, this is barely credible. Angela Merkel talks a lot about reforms. But when you have a look at her results inside Germany, one must say that they are based on reforms made by the previous government, reforms that Gerhard Schröder has made. And these reforms saw the SPD lose a lot of supporters. Merkel likes to highlight the increase of the retirement age to 67. But in fact the reform was pushed through by the SPD vice-chancellor Franz Müntefering and not by the CDU.
euronews: Angela Merkel is leading and far ahead in the opinion polls. So, what could the SPD-candidate Peer Steinbrück do to catch up?
René Pfister: “It is very, very difficult for the social-democrats to boost their low approval rating. I think, they just stumbled into this campaign. For a very long time, nobody knew who would be the candidate. And then the party was forced prematurely to nominate Peer Steinbrück by Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s decision not to run. And the party’s just continuing to make mistakes. Steinbrück is a man who stands for economic reforms, but at the same time the social-democrats have politically drifted to the left. This means that the party and its candidate don’t really match, but now they have to bring themselves closer together which is very tedious. Furthermore, Steinbrück has made very big mistakes over the past few months which have resulted in the fact that for a long time he didn’t realise what it means to be the candidate for the Chancellery and be in the media’s spotlight all the time.
euronews: “Are the Greens damaging themselves with their election programme that calls for higher taxes?
René Pfister: “I think that it will damage the left camp in general. I think that the Greens have voters who are ready to give something or to share something with the community. But I think when the only item of the election debate is the question: Will we have higher taxes or not? The CDU is trying to push for this. So that’s the only difference that can be seen between the SPD and the CDU. If the only question is: do they touch my purse it will be really difficult for the left camp all together to win this election campaign.