Germany's political parties have poured scorn on their rivals at traditional "Ash Wednesday" rallies marking the end of Carnival. The rhetorics set the scene for Germany's federal and state elections due in September.
Speculation that Germany's general elecion should result in a grand coalition in September comprising Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the current opposition center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) was dismissed on Wednesday by her main challenger amid surveys indicating a close race.
"I am aiming to win and I am not focused on any other scenario," SPD challenger Peer Steinbrück told SPD party members at their rally in Vilshofen in Germany's southern state of Bavaria.
Germany, said Steinbrück (pictured above), was currently engaged in a political battle on whether it would retain its social cohesion.
The SPD candidate, in turn, was sharply criticized by CSU chairman Horst Seehofer, Bavaria's state premier and Merkel's ally, for federal debt accumulated when Steinbrück was finance minister in Germany's last centrist grand coalition 2005-2009.
"Steinbrück is not a financial expert. He is the debt king of the federal republic," Seehofer told supporters of his Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) party at their traditional Ash Wednesday rally in Passau, the Danube river city in Bavaria where a regional state election is also due in September.
Merkel emerged victorious from Germany's 2009 which enabled her CDU and Seehofer's CSU to enter a coalition with their preferred partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The SPD, including Steinbrück, took to the opposition benches in Berlin's Bundestag parliamentary chamber alongside their onetime allies, the ecologist Greens and the Left party.
Steinbrück in his Vilshofen speech also accused Merkel's current cabinet of being mired in infighting, described Seehofer as the biggest"lose cannon" on Germany's political "deck."
This was echoed byJürgen Trittin, who is one of two leading Green candidates for Germany's federal election in September. He accused Seehofer of regularly saying things that made life difficult for his CDU partners in Merkel's cabinet in Berlin.
"When crazy Horst switches to friendly fire, then collateral damage occurs," said Trittin, referring to Seehofer's frequent populist campaigns catering to his electorate in Bavaria.
One of his pet topics is Germany's complicated financial system.
Seehofer at his party's Ash Wednesday rally in Passau again condemned Germany's post-war system whereby rich states such as Bavaria help finance poorer states such as Berlin.
"That is a daft system and it must be abolished" said Seehofer. "We're fed up."
Earlier in February, Bavaria launched proceedings on the issue before Germany's constitutional court in Karlsruhe.
ipj/kms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)