The man who wants to replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor has sacked his spokesman. The decision came just three months ahead of a national election and with Peer Steinbruck in the polls.
Steinbrück (pictured above right), of the main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) said on Monday that he had fired spokesman Michael Donnermeyer in order "to enter the last 100 days of the campaign with the best possible team."
"This was a pretty hard and difficult decision," Steinbrück added.
Donnermeyer had previously worked as a spokesman for Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and SPD leader Franz Müntefering. He has been replaced by Rolf Kleine (pictured above to the left of Steinbrück), a former Berlin bureau chief for the mass-circulation Bild newspaper. Kleine most recently handled communications for a German real estate firm.
The SPD candidate's campaign has thus far failed to pick up steam in its bid to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel and the coalition led by her conservative Christian Democratic Union. The SPD currently trails the CDU in the opinion polls by about 15 points.
Steinbrück, a former finance minister when Merkel led a grand coalition of the CDU and SPD, has been dogged by a series of early-campaign gaffes for which Donnermeyer has taken the flak.
Late last year it was revealed he had accepted speaking fees in excess of one million euros ($1.3 million) over a three-year period. He then said the chancellor's salary was too low in an interview with quotes authorized by Donnermeyer. The comments reinforced concerns that Steinbrück was out of touch with the SPD's blue-collar base, whose central election campaign theme is "social justice."
During the Italian elections earlier this year, Steinbrück caused controversy again by calling former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo "clowns."
With Germans set to go to the polls in a federal election on September 22, one looming question is whether the CDU's current junior collation partner, the pro-business liberal Free Democrats (FDP), can garner the percentage of votes necessary to enter Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.
If the FDP fail to achieve the required five percent threshold, the CDU could be be forced to seek a different coalition partner or even be forced from office.
Taking a back seat to Donnermeyer's firing was Steinbrück's presentation of the final three members of his 12-person election team of expert advisers.
Former Saarland Economy Minister Christiane Krajewski is to be his as economics expert, while the head of the aid organizations Bread for the World and Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, Cornelia Füllkring-Weitzel, is to handle international development. Oliver Scheytt, who oversaw the Ruhr.2010 project presenting the Ruhr region as a European Capital of Culture, is to be responsible for cultural policy.
dr/pfd (AFP, Reuters, dpa)