Germany's ruling Social Democrats have presented their election manifesto for upcoming national elections. The party's leader said that the SPD would wage its campaign under the motto "Trust in Germany."
The SPD has "Trust in Germany," but do Germans trust the SPD?
In an attempt to win back traditional working class voters, Germany's Social Democrats have veered to the left in their election manifesto which includes higher taxes for the rich and minimum wages for the poor.
But SPD leader Franz Müntefering also said that the party leadership agreed to support Gerhard Schröder as the SPD's choice for chancellor and that the sweeping welfare cuts and labor market reforms known as Agenda 2010 are here to stay.
Der SPD-Vorsitzende Franz Muentefering stellt auf einer Pressekonferenz im Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin am Montag, 4.Juli 2005, das Wahlmanifest seiner Partei fuer die geplante Bundestagswahl im September vor. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) ---German Social Democratic Party (SPD) chairman Franz Muentefering presents the party's election program for the upcoming federal elections, on Monday July 4, 2005 in Berlin. Word in background reads "Germany". (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
"We want to shape German policies together with Chancellor Schröder over the next four years," Müntefering said. "Our prime focus for these years will be on employment, security and a life with dignity for all."
Courting middle class voters
With the reformist Agenda 2010 platform, the Social Democrats are aiming at middle class voters who guaranteed the SPD's success in general elections in 1998 and 2002. In addition the new manifesto now also includes tax cuts for medium-sized businesses.
Mädchen malen im Gruppenraum der Kindertagesstätte "Landmäuse" im mecklenburgischen Pokrent, während die Jungen in der Spielecke mit Autos spielen (Archivfoto vom 28.11.2003). Familienministerin Renate Schmidt nimmt am Dienstag (30.11.2004) in Berlin Stellung zum OECD-Länderbericht zu Kinderbetreuung in Deutschland (Kinder-PISA). Foto: Jens Büttner dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
In an effort to tackle Germany's demographic problems, the SPD plans to improve pre-school child care and is seeking to raise maternity leave benefits to near-wage levels. The party also wants to solve a chronic cash shortage in the German public health service by broadening the basis of contributions to include for the first time civil servants and self-employed people.
The Social Democrats vowed to leave the system of sector-wide collective bargaining for wages untouched, but said they were planning to introduce minimum wages in industries not covered by the system.
A tax for the rich
Most controversial of all, however, are proposals to slap a 3-percent extra tax on incomes above 250,000 euros ($296,700) a year. They are a concession to the SPD's left fringe which had been on the verge of open revolt following the loss of the SPD's traditional stronghold of North Rhine-Westphalia in a regional election in May.
Now leftist Social Democrats like Andrea Nahles seem reconciled with Schröder.
Ein Archivbild vom 10. November 1997 zeigt die SPD-Linke Andrea Nahles in Bonn. Nahles hat den Reformkurs von Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schroeder erneut kritisiert, Reformen grundsaetzlich aber befuerwortet. "Es waere fatal, jetzt zu sagen, wir sollten den ganzen Reformprozess abbrechen", sagte Nahles am Dienstag, 30. September 2003, im ZDF-"Morgenmagazin". Ihre Kritik an Schroeder sei der gegenwaertigen Ausnahmesituation geschuldet. (AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil) **zu APD8819 **
"We do not take back the reforms of the past few years, but our campaign will have a new thrust," she said. "We say that domestic consumption in Germany urgently needs a boost to be able to create jobs and economic growth. Chancellor Schröder and the SPD's leftwing share this view so that the entire party stands united behind this manifesto."
Will Schröder end up beating Merkel after all?
Germans, however, seem to want political change. Currently they give the opposition Christian Democrats a commanding 18-point lead over the SPD. But after putting early elections on track by losing a confidence vote last Friday, Gerhard Schröder appeared rejuvenated.
At a weekend campaign appearance he urged cheering Social Democrats to ignore the polls and take confidence in another "come from behind" win as in 2002.