Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The German election campaign has so far lacked the riveting debates and explosive issues to which voters were treated in previous battles for power, perhaps because Chancellor Angela Merkel and her rival, Vice-Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier, have worked together in the same “grand coalition” government for the past four years and neither party seems especially eager to rock the boat.
Filling the void have been several somewhat bizarre little scandals that each side has tried to use to tarnish the other, taking pot shots without resorting to full firepower. They are, after all, partners in power.
First there was Ulla Schmidt, the Social Democratic health minister whose questionable use of her official car on holiday in Spain came to light only after the car was stolen. Merkel’s Christian Democrats and opposition parties have done all they can to turn the “Dienstwagenaffaere” into a campaign issue — an example of a minister out of touch with voters for taking full advantage of government privileges — even though Schmidt insists she has done nothing wrong.
Now Merkel, the CDU chancellor, is facing criticism from the SPD and opposition parties for throwing a controversial dinner party at the chancellery (at the taxpayers’ expense) last year for Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann to mark his 60th birthday. “She told me at the time she would like to do something for me,” Ackermann told German TV in a profile of Merkel last week. “She said I should invite 30 or friends I’d like to spend an evening with to the chancellery.”
Germany’s 37-year-old economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, could become a liability for Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s election thanks to his open criticism of the government’s 11th-hour rescue of carmaker Opel.
Guttenberg, a rising star in Merkel’s conservative camp, had argued for an Opel insolvency in the days preceding the deal.
The stabbing of a German police chief on his doorstep in southern Germany, which prosecutors suspect is a revenge attack by neo-Nazis angry about a crackdown on their activities, has exposed the uncomfortable reality that western Germany has troubles of its own.
The attack has shocked Germany and rekindled a fierce debate about how to tackle neo-Nazis and whether to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD).
Suddenly, the outlook has darkened for Chancellor Angela Merkel, thanks to Bavaria’s conservatives who suffered their worst result in half a century in a state vote on Sunday.