Kohl's Allies Insist CDU Is in Total Harmony

Article excerpt

Helmut Kohl's allies tried yesterday to quash a debate over the German Chancellor's ability to lead the Christian Democrats (CDU) into an election that polls show they are likely to lose.

CDU leaders said only Kohl could take the centre-right coalition into the September 27 federal election against Social Democratic (SPD) challenger Gerhard Schroeder.

But an opinion poll by the Forsa Institute published yesterday showed Kohl's party dropping two points in the past week to 34 per cent while the SPD jumped by the same margin to 45 per cent.

"Helmut Kohl is our candidate for chancellor," said Friedrich Bohl, minister in the chancellery.

He rejected speculation that the party would rather drop the 67-year-old chancellor and replace him with CDU parliamentary leader Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Political commentators agreed it was unlikely the CDU could dump Kohl at this late stage but noted the debate over his leadership and the party's election strategy would not go away.

One CDU national committee member said the party should push a Kohl-Schaeuble double ticket, to offset the chancellor's preoccupation with Europe with Schaeuble's focus on domestic issues.

Cabinet minister Juergen Ruettgers said the party's recent stategy of focusing on cost-cutting in the debate over the economy had been an electoral mistake. …