Wednesday, March 1, 2017

German political campaigns ramp up during beer-fueled Ash Wednesday rallies

Photo Credit: L. CSU Horst Seehofer, R. Chancellor Angela Merkel
Reuters/M. Dalder
With Germany's national elections only a few months away, Germany's traditional end-of-Carnival "Political Ash Wednesday" events set the tone for each party's upcoming campaigns. The typical rhetorical restraint used by German politicians is thrown out of the window during the annual, beer-fueled rallies held by Germany's political parties. Instead, prominent German politicians rail against their opponents in cutting speeches rife with colorful insults. Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-left challenger, Martin Schulz, fired up the crowd at the Social Democratic Party's (SPD) rally in the Bavarian town of Vilshofen. A crowd of around 5,000 SPD politicians and supporters waved signs bearing Schulz's name and greeted his speech with chants of: "Martin, Martin, Martin!" Schulz emphasized that the SPD was entering the 2017 election campaign "to become the strongest political force in Germany" and that he intended to unseat Merkel as the next chancellor. The SPD candidate also had some strong words for Merkel's conservative union between her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). He called the union a "forced marriage," saying: "they don't talk to each other, they talk over each other - they've lost their marbles." He also targeted US President Donald Trump, saying that whoever attacks the media, "calls women's rights into question" or "slanders those with impairments, disabilities or minorities" must be criticized.
CSU: 'Bavaria First'
Meanwhile, a few kilometers away in Passau, CSU head Horst Seehofer echoed Trump's policy in his own push to make "Bavaria First" in Germany. "Bavaria has the highest mountain in Germany and the lowest debt. Bavaria is special, Bavaria is a paradise," Seehofer told the beer-drinking crowd of 4,000 people. Although Seehofer renewed his call for a yearly cap on refugees - a position that Merkel strongly opposes - he voiced his support for the German chancellor during his Ash Wednesday speech. "As someone who has always loved to debate and argue and will always do so, I say to you: I know of no one other than Angela Merkel who can lead Germany on these global matters," Seehofer told the crowd. Seehofer also targeted Schulz in his speech, warning the SPD candidate to use accurate statistical figures while campaigning, lest he come to be known as "Schulz the cheater" in Bavaria. Merkel is due to speak later during the CDU's Ash Wednesday rally in her home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Germany's national elections are set to take place on September 24. rs/jm (AP, AFP, dpa) DW Photo