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.”
Just imagine the outcry if Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain had suddenly gone off on their own separate two-week vacations to, say, Mexico, just two months before the November election? Irresponsible! Reckless! Shirkers! Those and as well as other unprintable terms might be among the comments hurled their way.
Yet as unfathomable as it may be for candidates in the United States or many other countries to take a long holiday break so close to an election, in Germany it is just as inconceivable for politicians to continue to campaign actively during the summer holiday season — even if the election is just around the corner. Begging for votes while their countrymen are relaxing on the beach is simply verboten for Germans.