Chancellor candidate Angela Merkel began her final campaign push at a huge party congress in Dortmund and gave voters a peek into the country's economic future by snagging an ex-Siemens CEO for a top advisory post.
Merkel still leads in the polls
Heinrich von Pierer (below) is expected to be Angela Merkel's top economic adviser, should the conservative candidate win elections next month, German daily Bild newspaper reported Monday.
Heinrich von Pierer
Citing sources at the top of the CDU leadership, the report said von Pierer accepted an offer to head up a 10-person "Advisory Board for Innovation and Growth."
The committee, aimed at creating jobs, would be created as soon as Merkel takes office, should she become Germany's first woman chancellor on Sept.18. The rest of the advisory board would be made up of top economists and experienced business managers. Pierer's main job would be to advise Merkel in foreign economic policy, the newspaper said.
Victory still n ear
Meanwhile, on Sunday evening Merkel rallied her conservative alliance for the final push of the election campaign at a party congress in Dortmund. Despite the fact that her lead narrowed in recent weeks, polls continue to show unanimously that victory is within Merkel's grasp.
At the congress, Merkel said the Christian Union parties were ready to unseat Chancellor Gerhard Schröder after seven years in the opposition.
Merkel, Stoiber, on the campaign trail
"At his campaign rallies, (Schröder) says seven years of Red-Green have been seven good years for the country," Merkel said, referring to Schröder's center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. "Such sentences must sound like sheer mockery to the five million unemployed in the east and west of the country."
Merkel said the prospect of a conservative government was already helping turn around the ailing German economy.
"We are producing the light at the end of the tunnel," she said. "Everyone is waiting for a change of government."
Stoiber le n ds his voice
The one-day congress drew 1,000 CDU delegates and some 10,000 supporters from across the country to the Ruhr valley in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A Queen cover band whipped up the crowd gathered in a sports arena with the victory anthem "We Are The Champions."
Waving "Angie" posters -- Merkel's nickname -- the party faithful cheered their self-effacing candidate wildly as she entered the hall flashing a shy smile and a wave.
Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber, who lost to Schröder in the 2002 election, said voters had had enough of Schröder's broken promises.
"Schröder told everybody everything in the last seven years and often the opposite," he said. "Schröder sells policies like washing powder."
Co n servatives' u n ited fro n t
Schröder had hoped to catch the conservatives flat-footed when he announced in May after a state election debacle that he would seek to bring the national election forward by one year. But the Christian Union parties have, apart from a few gaffes, largely presented a united front behind Merkel.
The campaign has been dominated by Germany's anemic economic growth, sagging consumer confidence and the more than 11-percent unemployment rate.
Merkel's economic and labor market reform scheme includes a mix of income tax cuts, plans to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers and a hike of the value-added tax to lower non-wage labor costs.