Richard North, 24/07/2005  

With the German federal elections finally in train, Chancellor Schröder needs to think of something quickly to catch up with Angela Merkel, whose CDU/CSU party by 17 per cent.

There is some talk that he will resuscitate his anti-American stand over Iraq and make that the central plank of his election campaign, claiming that had the CDU been in power, there would have been German troops somewhere in Iraq.

The hope is that with the wave of terrorist attacks that has rolled across various countries, not least Britain, and the ongoing terrorism in Iraq, the Germans will feel grateful that they are not involved and are, therefore, not subjected to any bomb attacks. Not yet, anyhow, though experience shows that the terrorists hit out where they think the opposition is weak for whatever reason.

Joschka Fischer, who has spent much of the last year travelling round the world, trying to drum up support for a permanent German seat at the UN, an idea that was neatly squashed by Secretary of State Rice, has also announced that opposing the war in Iraq was one of the SPD-Green coalition’s achievements to be proud of.

Unfortunately, he did not have time to list the other achievements.

It seems unlikely that the tactic will succeed. Angela Merkel has already announced that she would put Germany on a friendlier footing with the United States, though there would be no German troops sent to Iraq. This pronouncement has done her no harm at all in the polls.

The problem from Schröder’s point of view is that the people of Germany are, understandably, preoccupied with domestic issues, what with unemployment growing and the economy being in recession.

And, although, as we have already said, Merkel’s policies do not seem to be all that radical, for many people, anything might seem better than Schröder’s tired old rhetoric.

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