Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Germany's Kohl Vows A Second Comeback

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Germany's Kohl Vows A Second Comeback

Article excerpt

CHANCELLOR Helmut Kohl's ruling Christian Democratic Union, which has dominated German politics for the last 12 years, has decided to cast itself as the underdog in this grueling election year.

The CDU's campaign strategy may be well-founded, as the party watches its popularity erode during the country's worst recession since World War II.

Reflecting concern about a possible disaster in October's parliamentary elections, the fiery speeches of CDU leaders at the Feb. 21-23 convention in Hamburg tried to avoid calling attention to their party's past performance, and stressed that the CDU is Germany's best chance at managing future political change.

Turning power over to a "red-green" coalition of Social Democrats and Greens - the CDU's two main political opponents - only would make Germany's current situation worse, Chancellor Kohl argued. In the end, the 1,000 CDU delegates appeared to back an action plan that will tie the party's chances in October to Kohl's campaign ability.

"It's an absurd situation. The CDU is in a worse position than ever, and for this very reason it is trusting its chairman {Kohl} more than ever," political analyst Heribert Prantl wrote in the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. "The CDU is sticking with Kohl for better or for worse because it does not see any other option - nor does it probably have one."

Recent public opinion polls consistently show the CDU trailing the opposition Social Democrats (SPD). An Emnid Institute poll released earlier this week said 36 percent of potential voters supported the CDU, while 39 percent favored the Social Democrats. A separate poll said Kohl's popularity rating stood at 26 percent, as opposed to 35 percent support for SPD leader Rudolf Scharping.

During his convention keynote speech, Kohl made it clear he was prepared to wage an all-out campaign. He told the delegates to fight "against the prevailing wind," and not to lose faith. …

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