Angela Merkel launches re-election campaign with warning on European debt addiction

Chancellor says instability likely unless she secures third term

Supporters of German chancellor Angela Merkel hold up signs with her nickname during an election campaign rally  in Luebeck yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Supporters of German chancellor Angela Merkel hold up signs with her nickname during an election campaign rally in Luebeck yesterday. Photograph: Reuters


German chancellor Angela Merkel has launched her attempt for a third term as German leader by warning voters that Europe must break its addiction to debt.

After a hiking holiday in south Tyrol, the German leader started her five-week re-election campaign with stump speeches and interviews laced with a dose of personal anecdotes

“We’ve seen what can happen if you accumulate too much debt,” said Dr Merkel at her first speech in Seligenstadt, a small town half an hour west of Frankfurt.

Indebted euro crisis countries had faced higher lending costs and interest rates, she said, triggering a “spiral” of struggling business and rising unemployment.

Surrounded by half-timbered houses in Seligenstadt, Dr Merkel presented herself as the chancellor of economic stability and prosperity.

Higher taxes
Campaign posters presented positive if vague slogans – “Successful Together” and “Strong Economy” – while she warned her audience they faced higher taxes and a likely return to euro crisis instability if they backed a Social Democratic Party (SPD)-Green coalition on September 22nd.

“When someone is successful the first thing the SPD and Greens ask is what can be taken away from them,” she claimed. “Germany is well-placed today. But if we don’t make progress very quickly we could run into situation where other countries pass us by.”

The German leader said little new in her 25-minute speech and did not mention her SPD challenger Peer Steinbrück once – though she struggled to be heard at times over whistles and jeers of “hypocrite” and “Merkel out!” from the local SPD youth wing.

With just over five weeks to polling day, Dr Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has a comfortable and apparently steady 15-point lead over Mr Steinbrück’s SPD. Election analysts say she is on course to become post-war Germany’s third three-term leader, following Konrad Adenauer and Helmut Kohl.

However, uncertainty surrounds the coalition she will lead.

If her struggling coalition partner, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), fails to recover support she is likely to attempt a return to the familiar option of a grand coalition with the SPD, or the more novel option of a partnership with the Greens.

Parallel to her campaign appearances, the notoriously private 59-year-old leader has also given selected interviews .

‘You look tired’
Asked by Neon youth magazine to name her worst youthful folly, she replied: “Drinking too much cherry wine. I underestimated how the alcoholic effect kicks in quicker than normal red wine.”

She also had a few anecdotes to hand about her family. Her mother sometimes calls her after seeing her on the television news, she said, to tell her “you look tired”.

“For my mother I’m an easy child to keep an eye on, it’s reported regularly where I am,” she said. “But she doesn’t tell me anymore what to do.”

The interview’s desired effect was diluted somewhat when Neon editor Patrick Bauer said the “real Merkel” was an act.

“She tells a lot in our interview,” he added, “but the anecdotes she parts with are very carefully chosen. She lets no one near her.”