Germany’s opposition Christian Democrats launched their election campaign in a fighting spirit on Monday. CDU chief Angela Merkel said her party is on course to defeat the current government in September.
Party leader Angela Merkel speaks to a packed audience in Frankfurt.
Angela Merkel warned against any displays of overconfidence in the run-up to the September 22 election, saying a Union bloc victory was anything but assured.
Merkel also took the opportunity at the party congress in Frankfurt to blast Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s record on revitalizing eastern Germany, saying he had failed to give the region the attention it needed.
On the issue of employment and taxation, Merkel said Germany needed an environment in which hard work once again paid off. Those with jobs in Germany, she said, must be in a position to take home more of what they earn. Tax cuts are an integral theme in the Union bloc's election-year party platforms.
She also spoke to the large issue of social justice, saying the majority of Germans currently believe that the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten even bigger under Schröder.
Merkel also told the party congress that immigration would play a central role in this year‘s campaign. She said high unemployment, the ongoing debate over education and the integration of foreigners meant that the party could not ignore the immigration issue.
She continued by saying that regulating the influx of immigrants was a central responsibility which had been shirked by the Schröder government. Her one-hour speech earned her a total of seven minutes of applause.
Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl
There was also a fair share of applause on Monday for former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (photo), who gave his first speech at a party conference since being enveloped by major scandal a few years ago. The Christian Democrats made their peace with Kohl following a slush fund scandal that threated to bring the party to its knees back in early 2000.
Kohl spoke of German reunification as his crowning achievement and was later given a standing ovation by party delegates. Ursula Doppmeier, a Christian Democrat delegate from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, praised the speech, saying Kohl has now been taken back into the CDU family.
And if recent opinion polls are correct, the "family" is doing fine these days. The CDU currently maintains a slight lead over Schröder’s Social Democrats.
Kohl and Merkel's appearances are to be followed on Tuesday by Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, the joint chancellor candidate of the CDU and the Christian Social Union, it's Bavarian sister party.