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SPD meets as Schmidt storm rumbles

With weak poll numbers and an awkward scandal filling the airwaves, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) met Tuesday in Hannover hoping for a reboot nine weeks before national elections.

SPD meets as Schmidt storm rumbles
Photo: DPA

The private session featured current Foreign Minister and chancellor-candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier and SPD party head Franz Müntefering trying to the rally 400-odd parliamentary candidates as opinion polls show the party headed for an epic thrashing on September 27.

The latest calamity to hit the party is a scandal involving SPD Health Minister Ulla Schmidt’s official vehicle, a €90,000 armoured Mercedes S-Class, stolen while she was vacationing in Spain.

While Schmidt flew to Spain at her own expense, she planned to attend a few minor official events and requested that her driver make the 2,387-kilometre journey from Berlin in the official car to her vacation flat near the Costa Brava.

A thief stole the car keys from the driver’s unlocked apartment and made off with the Mercedes last weekend. Rival politicians and headline writers have had a field day with the news, saying the incident underscores how out of touch the SPD has become after 11 years in power.

Müntefering tried to play down the limo incident at Tuesday’s event and defended Schmidt.

“Ulla Schmidt has already had to live with prejudices many times,” Müntefering said, noting that she had been attacked by opponents just in the past weeks over changes to how doctors are paid. “This is an experienced and mature woman who will hold her own through this, I’m very certain,” he said.

The most recent opinion polls show the Social Democrats drawing just 24 percent of the vote versus 36 percent for their right-of-centre Christian Democratic Union rivals.

A repeat of the current “Grand Coalition” between the CDU and SPD seems increasingly unlikely as the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) continues to gain strength, now drawing 14 percent of support in polls. Both the FDP and CDU have said they would prefer to rule together in a coalition government.

Chancellor-candidate Steinmeier will begin a “summer trip” through Germany to win over voters. On Thursday, he will announce his “election campaign team” in an effort to signal those likely to be important players in a future SPD government.

Steinmeier’s mentor, former chancellor Gerhard Schröder also attended the Hannover event to speak about campaign strategies.

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CULTURE

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.

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