German ElectionsThe Price of a Failed Reunification
On the campaign trail, Germany's politicians are mostly silent about one of the country's most pressing problems. Former East Germany is a major liability costing the economy €100 billion annually. Fifteen years after German reunification, the results of reconstruction in the former East Germany are mixed. Existing older structures were saved in many cities, the infrastructure was overhauled and state-of-the-art factories were built. Consumption among East Germans has almost reached western levels. But the former East German states continue to depend upon billions in federal aid, and will likely do so for years to come. Politicians and economic experts alike are puzzled by the East's sluggish development. Despite the fact that unions aren't as strong in the East as in the West and the labor market is already deregulated, employment remains lethargic. The original goal of achieving identical living conditions in the East and the West is becoming increasingly unattainable.
The German Problem - Elections won't fix the constitution's defects.
As early as 1982, countless economists and even the left-wing Der Spiegel called for drastic cutbacks--to no effect. In the 1990s, a nominally conservative government lavished already-excessive benefits on the impoverished, unproductive East. As Modell Deutschland has lurched on, per-capita GDP, once among the highest in Europe, is now third-worst in the E.U. (ahead of only Portugal and Greece). Unemployment is approaching 12 percent, and is twice that rate in some Eastern regions. Germany's impressive postwar economic success and political stability have often been attributed to the sound design of her institutions. The reverse is true: The institutions worked because the economy, relatively unencumbered at the outset, threw off sufficient wealth to pay for an expanding welfare state. That arrangement has crumbled and is now threatening to collapse under its own dynamic.
SPD uses photos of American soldiers' coffins on posters
Battling for re-election in a tight race, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party is putting up campaign posters showing flag-draped coffins of dead American soldiers to underline their opposition to the Iraq war, reports said Friday. Rolf Schwanitz, a state secretary in the Berlin chancellery, is using a poster with five coffins covered by the American stars and stripes being loaded into a transport aircraft flanked by a U.S. military honour guard. The Chancellor, who narrowly won re-election in 2002 after making his 'no' to the Iraq war a key campaign issue, never misses a chance to attack Merkel over Iraq in election rally speeches. Schroeder's use of the Iraq war in 2002 for domestic purposes led to the worst post-war crisis in German-American ties. The conservative Bild tabloid dubbed the posters "perverse election campaigning." Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) reacted with outrage to the poster. "It's totally tasteless! There are limits even in an election campaign - you don't use the dead to win votes," said CDU Secretary General Volker Kauder.
Turkish candidate aims to take Berlin seat
Ahmet Iyidirli is confident he will be one of a handful of candidates of Turkish origin to secure a seat in the new German parliament by taking an inner-Berlin constituency for the Social Democrats. He is not satisfied with the tolerance most Germans show to the roughly 2.5 million people of Turkish origin in their midst. "Multiculturalism is not sitting here in a bar seeing a woman walk past wearing an Islamic scarf or dressed in an Indian sari and accepting this. It means much more, it means participation, it means people of Turkish origin in public office, in management," he says.
German Muslims Urged to Vote in Numbers
Nadeem Elias, the chairman of the Supreme Council of Muslims in Germany, said the council does not prefer a candidate to another. But he cited a visit by Schroeder to the office of Turkish mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper on Thursday, September 15, during which the chancellor endorsed Turkey ’s right to join the euro bloc. He said the visit would win Schroeder votes from German Muslims in general and Turks, who make up the majority of the 3.2 million Muslim minority, in particular. Schroeder is also a long-time advocate of full membership to Turkey. Turkey has emerged as a key theme in the campaign, with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) favoring only a "privileged partnership" for Ankara. Pundits said that the Muslim vote is likely to reward Schroeder’s Social Democrats (SPD) for its anti-Iraq war position and pro-Muslim policies. Up to 90 percent of the Muslim voters backed Schroeder in the 2002 general election.