Does Peer Steinbrück Have the Stuff to Be Chancellor?
28/09/2012 Deja un comentario
The Social Democrats have finally ended the suspense, choosing former Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück as their candidate to unseat Merkel in next year’s general elections. Though widely credited with helping lead Germany through financial crisis, he can be abrasive. Does he stand a chance? “Are you really going to buy a DVD player because it now costs £39.10 instead of £39.90?” then-German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück wanted to know in a December 2008 interview with Newsweek. “All this will do is raise Britain’s debt to a level that will take a whole generation to work off.” The comment was made just weeks after the global financial crisis began ravaging world economy in the wake of Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in fall of 2008. And it was a signature moment for the often brash Steinbrück. Now, with German general elections just year away (2013), he is aiming even higher. On Friday, Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, announced that he will propose Steinbrück as party’s candidate to unseat Chancellor Angela Merkel, a woman whom he was instrumental in helping become one of the few significant world leaders not to lose their jobs in the wake of the financial crisis. “I accept this challenge,” Steinbrück told reporters during a press conference at SPD headquarters in Berlin on Friday. “We want to replace the current government. Our goal is a coalition government with Green Party”. The choice of Steinbrück, analysts say, is a good one. For months, SPD had been refraining from announcing which of a trio of leaders would ultimately take the reins. Lately, though, it had become increasingly apparent that SPD leader Gabriel lacked popularity among German voters, and parliamentary floor leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier was lukewarm at prospect of a renewed candidacy after having led the party to its worst-ever postwar result in 2009 general elections. Steinbrück, though, is widely credited with having shown a steady hand during the darkest moments of the crisis in 2008 and 2009. And he has also given every indication recently that he is up for challenge. “Steinbrück is most dangerous candidate for Merkel because he is attractive to centrist voters,” political analyst G. Neugebauer told Reuters on Friday. Gerd Langguth, another well-respected commentator on German politics, added: “He would be the most capable of poaching voters from the conservative camp.” The 65-year-old is also something of a known quantity overseas. In the initial months of the crisis, Steinbrück was never far away from the headlines, and didn’t mince words. “The US will lose its status as the superpower of the world financial system. The world will become multi-polar,” Steinbrück said in one much-cited comment made before Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, September 2008. He coined the phrase “crass-Keynesianism” as part of his critique of massive spending packages aimed at softening the effects of the crisis. “When I ask about the origins of the crisis, economists I respect tell me it is the credit-financed growth of recent years and decades,” he said in the Newsweek interview. “Isn’t this the same mistake everyone is suddenly making again under all public pressure? It’s the yearning for the Great Rescue Plan. It doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist” (…..)