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Struck backs Beck as next SPD chancellor

SPD parliamentary group leader Peter Struck has given his backing to embattled Social Democratic chairman Kurt Beck as the party's 2009 candidate for chancellor amid ongoing concerns of his leadership.

In the debate over possible cooperation between the hard-line socialist Left Party and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Struck gave his unconditional support to SPD chairman Kurt Beck as the party’s next candidate for chancellor.

Beck, who has apparently had the flu for the last two weeks, may be under the weather, Struck said, but he’s not out of the game. “Anything else that people believe is just a fantasy from people who want to damage the SPD and its leaders,” he told the Tuesday edition of tabloid daily Bild. “Kurt Beck is, and remains, the SPD party chairman, without a doubt.” Furthermore, Struck added, Beck is the first choice for chancellor in the 2009 general election.

Struck’s statement comes amid growing dissatisfaction against his Beck’s leadership. Top members of the SPD are reportedly planning to keep Beck from becoming the party’s candidate for chancellor. Concerned over the direction Beck has been taking the party, several high-ranking SPD members – including German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück and former party bosses Matthias Platzeck and Franz Müntefering – have reportedly been plotting to sideline him in the next general election in favour of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, according to weekly news magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend.

The reform-oriented wing of the SPD has been angered by Beck’s willingness to consider working together with the socialist Left Party, which has its roots in the East German communist party. The Left Party has begun making inroads in western Germany, complicating the Social Democrats’ efforts to challenge the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) in both state and federal elections.

As to whether Beck made mistakes in the current debate over whether the SPD and the ex-communist Left party could form coalitions at the state level of government, Struck to told Bild, “Beck admitted that the discussion wasn’t ideal. That was honorable. But with that, the discussion is over.”

POLITICS

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

While far-right groups have been celebrating, other politicians in Germany see the results as worrying. Here's a look at the reaction.

How Germany is reacting to far-right election victory in Italy

According to initial projections following Italy’s election on Sunday, the coalition led by Georgia Meloni and her radical right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party has won a majority of seats in the two chambers of the Italian parliament and will lead the next government. 

Meloni is a euro-sceptic who has previously spoken about having an “aversion” to Germany and referred to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz as “socialist” while on the campaign trail.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s deputy spokesman Wolfgang Buechner told reporters on Monday: “We of course have to wait for the official final result from this election but at this time what the chancellor would say is that Italy is a very Europe-friendly country with very Europe-friendly citizens and we assume that won’t change.” 

READ ALSO: What will a far-right government mean for Italy?

A Finance Ministry spokesperson added that Berlin expected the new Italian government to continue to respect the stability pact that sets the fiscal rules for the eurozone.

Despite these reassurances from the central government, German politicians in the EU parliament have expressed concern about the new direction for Italy.  

Rasmus Andresen, spokesman for the German Greens in the EU Parliament, said the “unprecedented Italian slide to the right” will have massive repercussions for Europe and for the European Union.

“Italy, as a founding member and the third strongest economy in the EU, is heading for an anti-democratic and anti-European government.”

Though Meloni no longer wants Italy to leave the eurozone, she has said that Rome must assert its interests more and has policies that look set to challenge Brussels on everything from public spending rules to mass migration.

The Greens’ co-leader in Brussels, Thomas Waitz, told Die Welt that the EU can only function if it sticks together, for example on cooperation in energy markets, decisions on Russian sanctions or dealing with the Covid crisis. “Meloni, on the other hand, would back national go-it-alones. It can be a disaster for Europe,”  he said. 

READ ALSO: Euro falls to 20-year low against US dollar

The FDP’s expert on Europe, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, takes a similar view. He said on ARD’s Morgenmagazin that cooperation with Italy in the European Union will become more difficult. He said that it will now be much more difficult to achieve unity in Europe, especially on the issues of migration, reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the single market.

Speaking on RTL, Green Party leader Omid Nouripour called the election results in Italy “worrying” and pointed out that people within the Italian right-wing nationalist alliance have “very close entanglements with the Kremlin”.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that people in Moscow also popped the corks last night,” he said.

Germany’s own far-right party – Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – has been celebrating the victory. 

AfD member of the Bundestag Beatrix von Storch wrote “We cheer with Italy!” on Twitter late Sunday evening.

Referring to the recent elections in Sweden, where the right was also successful, von Storch wrote: “Sweden in the north, Italy in the south: left-wing governments are so yesterday.”

Her party colleague Malte Kaufmann tweeted, “A good day for Italy – a good day for Europe.”

With reporting from AFP

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