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German Social Democrats refute finance minister's Schulz-Trump comparison

Leading members of the SPD have hit back after Germany's finance minister said candidate Martin Schulz's speeches were akin to the populist rhetoric of US President Donald Trump. Elections are due in September.

With more than eight months to go before the German general election, is the campaign already turning malicious?

Leading members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) on Saturday spoke out against Germany's Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, after he drew parallels between Martin Schulz, Chancellor Angela Merkel's main challenger for the chancellorship, and US President Donald Trump.

"If Schulz allows his supporters to chant, 'Make Europe great again,' then that's almost word-for-word Trump," Schäuble told German weekly "Der Spiegel."

"The grand coalition under Angela Merkel achieved good work for the people in our country," Schäuble, a member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said.  "Schulz refuses to believe this. That shows that he is among those who function in the post-truth era."

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'Desperate' words

Thomas Oppermann, the SPD's chairman in Germany's parliament, hit back sharply at the finance minister's comments, labeling them "outrageous and absurd."

"If an intelligent man like Schäuble says something like that, then it shows that the level of desperation is quite high in the party," Oppermann said on Saturday. "But desperation doesn't make for good counsel."

The SPD's outgoing leader and current Foreign Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, also warned that Schäuble's comments risked setting a bitter tone for September's election, akin to that of last year's US Presidential race.

The "radicalism, nastiness and accusations," that were customary in the US should not be allowed to enter German politics, Gabriel said on Saturday. He warned his party against such tactics in answering to the CDU's attacks.

The SPD expects a "bold and hard-fought election" but will refrain from personal attacks, Gabriel said.

dm/jm (dpa, AFP)

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