NEWS

Germans would be up in arms about Greek-style cuts equal to 170bln euros per year, says Steinbrueck

German Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel’s euro crisis- resolution polices as obsessed with spending cuts and told voters that Germany must step in to help indebted countries.

Merkel has been focused on “saving, saving, saving” and has spent the crisis “doing a dance of the veils” to convince voters that Germany shouldn’t pay to help weaker nations, the SPD chancellor candidate said, responding to audience questions in a live broadcast on ARD television. Steinbrueck said Germany would have to save 170 billion euros ($226 billion) a year if it had to cut as much as euro members Greece and Spain.

“Nobody would be sitting here very quietly in that case,” Steinbrueck said in the town-hall style event yesterday in the western German city of Moenchengladbach. Austerity policies in southern Europe are creating a “social powder keg,” he said.

Steinbrueck is stepping up criticism of Merkel’s crisis response as polls show the SPD gaining ground on the chancellor’s Christian Democrats after their only campaign debate on Sept. 1. Yet 10 days before the Sept. 22 election, most polls show Merkel with a slim majority to lead a third government in her present coalition with the Free Democrats.

A Forsa poll published in Stern magazine yesterday gave a two-point gain for Steinbrueck’s SPD to 25 percent. That was offset by a two-point drop for the SPD-allied Greens party to 9 percent, a four-year low. That would undermine Steinbrueck’s goal of forging an SPD-Green coalition.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc dropped a point to 39 percent, while her FDP partner gained one to 6 percent. Forsa surveyed 2,500 voters Sept. 3-9 and the poll had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

The decline of the Greens would buttress Merkel’s position in coalition talks, either with the FDP or for a “grand coalition” with the SPD. Merkel’s first government from 2005 to 2009 was a coalition with the SPD.

“Steinbrueck’s performance in the election debate was a wake-up call for Merkel but he’s still not gaining enough traction,” Jan Techau, director of the Brussels office of the Carnegie Endowment, said in a telephone interview.

In a personal contest between Merkel and Steinbrueck, the chancellor lost three points to 52 percent, while the SPD candidate gained three to 26 percent, Forsa showed. This was Forsa’s first survey taken after the Sept. 1 debate. German voters cast ballots for members of parliament and parties and don’t directly elect the chancellor.

[Bloomberg]