German SPD shift to left strains ties with Merkel party




  • In Business
  • 2019-02-11 15:07:47Z
  • By AFP
With the SPD polling below 20 percent, party chief Andrea Nahles has faced pressure from within party ranks
With the SPD polling below 20 percent, party chief Andrea Nahles has faced pressure from within party ranks  

Berlin (AFP) - Germany's Social Democrats called Monday for greater welfare spending in a shift back to their leftist roots, further straining ties with coalition partners, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

The Social Democrats (SPD), Germany's traditional labour party, have responded to a series of election debacles with a sweeping policy review -- including easing rules for unemployment benefits, boosting state pensions and raising the minimum wage.

News portal Spiegel Online considered the change of course a deliberate SPD attempt to provoke a breakup of the year-old pact with Merkel's CDU, an alliance also known as the "GroKo" - a German reference to grand coalition.

"The SPD leadership has launched Operation Exit," a Spiegel commentary said of the SPD plans to break with the more centrist policies introduced by its ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

SPD chief Andrea Nahles, presenting the change of course Monday, denied any plans to implode the left-right government, saying this had been "a non-issue" in the party's deliberations.

Merkel's CDU and pro-business groups quickly rejected the ideas, arguing that they breached the joint policy programme of the coalition government and would cost billions of euros.

SPD deputy leader Ralf Stegner fired back in a tweet that the SPD's ideas were "scaring the class adversary".

- Break with past -

The SPD's new approach signals a clear break with the sweeping social welfare reforms of Schroeder, who ruled Germany from 1998 to 2005 before losing to Merkel.

Schroeder's so-called Hartz reforms are credited with revitalising the German economy but also criticised for the generating the social pain that led many SPD rank-and-file to defect.

With its new programme, the SPD is hoping to win back voters who drifted to the far-left Die Linke and the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) parties.

The next ballot-box test will be May's European Parliament elections, followed by three regional polls in ex-communist East Germany.

With the SPD now polling well below 20 percent, Nahles has faced pressure from within the SPD, including from retired Schroeder, 74, who recently criticised her for having made "amateur's mistakes".

Former party chief and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel is also working on a comeback after being sidelined by Nahles last year.

But Nahles has received support from many in the SPD for the new policy course.

Youth wing leader Kevin Kuehnert, a fierce and outspoken critic of the GroKo, praised the new programme as "an important act of self-liberation" for the party.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Care workers cross Europe
Care workers cross Europe's east-west divide

Every two weeks, Alena Konecna packs her bags to leave her own mother and daughter at home in Slovakia and travel some 400 kilometres (250 miles) across the border into Austria to take care of someone else's mother. As citizens across the continent prepare to vote in May's European Parliament elections, 40-year-old Konecna is an example of those who regularly take advantage of one of the EU's most important pillars: the free movement of labour. "Without care workers from abroad, the 24-hour care system would break down... No one (in Austria) wants to do it," says Klaus Katzianka, who runs the agency that found Konecna her current job and who himself needs round-the-clock care due to a...

German plane arrives in Madeira to take home bus crash survivors
German plane arrives in Madeira to take home bus crash survivors

An air force medical plane from Germany landed on the Portuguese island of Madeira on Saturday to take home the injured survivors of a bus crash that killed 29 German tourists earlier this week. Eleven of the injured Germans have already been discharged from hospital and 12 will be flown home on the medical plane on Saturday. Another was transferred to Germany on Friday and one will stay in hospital in Funchal, Madeira's capital, a hospital spokesman said.

Doctors assessing when Madeira bus crash survivors can fly home to Germany
Doctors assessing when Madeira bus crash survivors can fly home to Germany

The bus - carrying 55 tourists and a tour guide - veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico on Wednesday, and came to a halt next to a house, killing 29 Germans and injuring 27, including the Portuguese driver and tour guide. Portugal's public prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the accident. Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, landed in Madeira on Thursday evening with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet those affected.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Business

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.