Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero lent his support to the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, as he made a last push for votes in a crucial regional election.
Schroeder’s Social Democrats are in real danger of losing control of one of their heartlands in Sunday’s vote. Polls have consistently shown the opposition Christian Democrats on course to win the ballot in North Rhine-Westphalia. The more recent surveys suggest the governing party is catching up. But these are tense times for the Chancellor. Defeat in this SPD stronghold would auger badly for a general election to be held within 18 months. The party is hoping the popularity of the current state premier, Peer Steinbrueck, will see them through. He has homed in on the CDU’s plans to cut subsidies to the area’s once mighty coal industry. Steinbrueck says it would lead to job cuts in a state where around one million people are already out of work. The CDU challenger, Juergen Ruettgers, says the coal mines are in unstoppable decline and that the subsidies would be better used to create new employment.