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Germany

Germany's Election Campaign Heats up in Frankfurt

Edmund Stoiber, the conservative opposition candidate for chancellor in September's election had harsh words for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder Tuesday, saying "Germany cannot afford giving Mr. Schröder a second chance."

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Confidence personified: Edmund Stoiber at a party conference in Frankfurt.

Edmund Stoiber spent two hours battling the heat and his political opponent at the Frankfurt Fair convention center in what was to become the high point of the Christian Democrat's party congress.

Mr. Stoiber, who in the past has been knocked for being too wooden at public appearances, proved to be anything but on Tuesday.

In a speech that was high on emotion, he even went so
far as to call a continuation of the Schröder government after the elections "the biggest cruelty that could be perpetrated against the German people."

Christian Democrats smell victory

Germany's Christian Democrats are enjoying a rare spell of confidence and a sense of impending success after years. The latest opinion polls put Stoiber comfortably ahead of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of the governing Social Democrats.

That sense of confidence in the party ranks has been bolstered by the recent successes of centre-right parties across Europe, most notably in the recent French parliamentary elections.

The ongoing party conference is an opportunity for the Christian Democrats and Stoiber's Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, to put the finishing touches to the parties' election manifesto.

Expansive promises of reform

Stoiber was also clear on the reforms he intends to introduce if elected.

On the policy front, he introduced a 5-point initiative he said he would enact after becoming chancellor. It calls for lowering taxes, restructuring the job market, shoring up pensions and improving the state of the economy in eastern Germany.

He had harsh words for Mr. Schröder's Employment Minister, Walter Riester, calling him "a master of disaster."

His criticism of the ruling government coalition seemed to exclude no one.

Stoiber also picked up on the highly controversial immigration issue, saying that "those who want more immigration in this country are overtaxing Germany." He promised that he would see to it that Germany gets a new law governing immigration if elected.

Earlier in the day, Friedrich Merz, the man widely tipped to become finance minister in a Stoiber government, said that more needed to be done to find work for unemployed Germans rather than foreigners.

"Our central aim," Mr. Merz said, "must be to integrate four million unemployed into the labor market."

Days numbered for Social Democrats?

One of the goals of the party congress was to close ranks and demonstrate unanimous support for the conservative candidate. Party delegates on hand say this was accomplished and gave the candidate 10 minutes of applause following his speech.

"The days of the Social Democrats in Europe are coming to an end," Mr. Stoiber said. And as far as the candidate is
concerned, those days cannot come soon enough.