Belligerent Schroeder in TV talk show draws fire
BERLIN – A belligerent performance by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in a TV talk show after German elections, which his party narrowly lost, has drawn widespread criticism and fuelled alarm the country could be lurching into a political crisis.
Despite coming in behind conservative challenger Angela Merkel, the Chancellor – in an interview with all leading candidates after Sunday’s elections – insisted he had won and should remain German leader.
This means Schroeder is locked in battle with Merkel who insists she should head the next German government. With both sides digging in their heels the impasse is likely to remain for weeks and could even force new elections – which some analysts say is Schroeder’s secret goal.
A grinning Schroeder first accused the TV moderators of having “an intellectual problem” and not being objective in their reporting and questioning.
Turning to a grim-looking Merkel he said: “Do you seriously think my party will accept this offer for talks with Frau Merkel? … Under her leadership she will never get a coalition with my party.”
This was strong stuff given that Merkel’s Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) came in first with 35.2 per cent, compared with 34.3 per cent for Schroeder’s Social Democrats (SPD).
….. Most newspapers said Schroeder had “run riot” during the half-hour TV show dubbed “the elephant round”. The Berliner Zeitung, which generally backs the Chancellor, called it “a bizarre appearance”.
Initial criticism came from Schroeder’s wife, Doris, as was admitted by the Chancellor himself.
“I was perhaps a bit too riotous,” said Schroeder, adding: “Oh well…she told me I should try to be more of a statesman.”
This was mild compared to other critiques of Schroeder whose body language oozed confidence bordering on arrogance.
….. “He spoke on election night as if he was on the verge of carrying out a putsch,” said Baring in a B.Z. newspaper interview, adding: “The way he is treating democracy and majority rule is truly threatening.”
….. Predictably, members of Merkel’s CDU/CSU attacked Schroeder.
“Schroeder is a total egocentric who is twisting the law and ignoring all rules of democracy,” said Guenter Beckstein, the CSU Bavarian interior minister.
The big winner of Sunday’s TV debate was widely deemed to have been Free Democratic Party (FDP) chairman Guido Westerwelle.
While Merkel appeared almost paralysed in the face of Schroeder’s attacks, Westerwelle leapt to her defence.
“You cannot be taken seriously,” snapped Westerwelle who refused to address the defeated Schroeder as “Herr Chancellor” and instead called him “Herr Colleague” given they are both members of parliament and Schroeder is now only acting chancellor.
….. When Schroeder tried to slap down Westerwelle with a lesson on German politics from the 1960s, Westerwelle swiftly turned the tables.
“I may be younger than you – but I’m not more stupid,”.
Schroeder’s buffoonery may have been entertaining, but the implications (weeks of governmental deadlock and/or another election) are the last thing both Germany and a world economy which could sorely use coherence from Deutschland need.
UPDATE: Willisms looks into the root causes of Germany’s problems, and convincingly shows that it’s a failure to shake East Germany from of its Communist, welfare-state past.