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Steinbrück under fire for pay bump request

Peer Steinbrück, the Social Democrat candidate for German chancellor has said the country's top political position is not paid highly enough. He has come under fire from all directions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's main rival for the country's prime leadership position at next year's election said in an interview published on Sunday that the job was underpaid. It carries a salary of 18,000 euros ($23,800) a month.

"Almost every bank director in North Rhine-Westphalia earns more than the chancellor," Steinbrück told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

"A chancellor of Germany earns too little, measured by the performance they provide, in relation to other jobs with far less responsibility," he said.

Some politicians, including the last Social Democrat chancellor Gerhard Schröder, criticized the claims that Germany's government head should be better paid. Schröder disagreed with the current candidate's remarks.

Although not specifically referencing Steinbrück, Schröder told German mass-circulation newspaper Bild, "politicians in Germany are paid appropriately."

"And if the rewards are too low, a politician can always try some other career," he said.

Steinbrück's comments, Katja Kipping chairwoman of the left-party said, have taunted voters, turning them away from the polls. She suggested the former finance ministe needs to work on his choice of discussion topics during the election campaign.

“Those who seriously believe the chancellor needs to earn more than seven times the average wage has misunderstood the requirements of the job,” she said.

Kippling called for mechanisms to ensure politicians do not loose touch with reality. “We have a simple suggestion,” she said. “Politicians' future salaries should not be increased anymore than the average rent.”

Private funds

Steinbrück has been criticized in the past for his high personal earnings outside the political arena.

During his time as Merkel's finance minister from 2005-09, Steinbrück authorized official payments to a law firm where he later received 15,000 euros for a speech he gave to the organization.

He has since defended his personal earnings, saying he "harbors no erotic attraction" to money.

German cabinet ministers voted themselves their first pay increase in 12 years in May this year. The raise will be staggered over three years.

jlw /jm (dpa, dapd)