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POLITICS

Merkel failing to lead, Social Democrats say

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners on Sunday accused her of a lack of leadership as internal tensions mount steadily ahead of national elections in 2009.

Merkel failing to lead, Social Democrats say
Merkel at a UN conference in Bonn last week. Photo:DPA

“The chancellor is not really present on the domestic front,” the Social Democrats’ parliamentary leader, Peter Struck, told Deutschlandfunk radio.

“She does not lead, she does not step in,” added Struck. Struck and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also a Social Democrat, accused Merkel of portraying herself as a leader in the fight against climate change but allowing her Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) to hinder progress in that regard.

“She often makes strong statements at press conferences but does little to stop her own party blocking progress,” said Struck. Gabriel added: “It cannot be that the chancellor cultivates an image as a champion of the environment but in reality the Christian Democrats block everything.”

The secretary general of Merkel’s party, Ronald Pofalla, dismissed the criticism as an attempt by the Social Democrats to deflect attention from their own woes.

Germany’s two biggest parties have governed in a power-sharing coalition since 2005 but strife between the partners are increasingly spilling into the open as they prepare to contest next year’s election.

The situation deteriorated last week when the SPD nominated prominent academic Gesine Schwan to challenge conservative President Horst Köhler for the largely ceremonial post in 2009.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Merkel, who had shortly before termed her party’s relationship with the Social Democrats as “very, very difficult.”

“We have a president who is respected around the world,” Merkel said. “So it is regrettable that the Social Democrats have put up their own candidate in this step that can only be explained by the internal state of the party.”

German commentators have warned that the Social Democrats’ nomination of Schwan was seen by their partners as a provocation and that it has set the stage for a protracted, acrimonious election campaign. The Social Democrats are hampered by disarray in their own ranks and have hit their lowest poll ratings in two and half years.

The closely watched Politbarometer poll released Friday showed that only 21 percent of registered voters would be willing to cast their ballots for the party in September next year.

The CDU/CSU drew 42 percent of potential voters, up from 38 percent where they had hovered for months.

POLITICS

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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