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Politics

Internal critics question Merkel's leadership

Industry lobbyists within Germany's grand coalition have criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership. One of her deputies Michael Fuchs has demanded a "new start" in economic policy.

Merkel's conservative critics went public on Sunday, using Germany's parliamentary summer recess to publicly demand that she show "proven leadership" and to accuse her vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of practicing "pure populism."

Gabriel leads Germany's center-left Social Democrats (SPD) - traditionally Merkel's main rivals - who have joined up with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and allied Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) in a three-way coalition after last September's federal election.

Fuchs (pictured left) who is deputy head of Merkel's conservative caucus told the news magazine Der Spiegel that Merkel's parliamentarians were "no longer willing" to prevail against "a partly technically skeptical public" on controversial issues. Spiegel put Fuch's remarks in the context of genetic engineering, fracking and other forms of energy capture.

In 1983, said Fuchs, former chancellor Helmut Kohl prevailed on NATO's double-track decision to deploy Pershing missiles in western Europe - to counter the risk of failure in Cold War nuclear disarmament talks - despite major public opposition.

"This courage is what I miss today in politics, sometimes also from the chancellor," Fuchs told Der Spiegel.

Compass 'lost'

Bavarian politician, Hans Michelbach, who chairs a CSU grouping of small- and medium-sized firms, told the Münchner Merkur newspaper that economic policy in Germany had "lost its compass."

Michelbach blamed this especially on what he termed the "pure populism" of SPD chief Gabriel, whom he accused of also pitching to the opposition ecologist Greens ahead of Germany's next election due in 2017.

According to the Munich-based magazine Focus, the economic and mid-sized business consortium within Merkel's conservatives is lobbying for a voting majority to rid Germany's tax system of the so-called "cold progression."

This is the effect when skilled workers' pay rises failed to translate into net cash because of inflation or an automatic shift into a higher tax bracket.

Barely two weeks ago, Merkel insisted that Germany first had to consolidate its national debts and currently had no scope to grant wage earners tax relief. Merkel pledged no tax increases during the 2013 election campaign, but said she could not offer tax cuts.

Business acumen lacking?

The president of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), Eric Schweitzer, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that he hoped to see "more people who represent business perspectives" in Merkel's conservative grouping.

Currently there were no ministers in Merkel's cabinet with extensive business experience, Schweitzer said.

Merkel's Bavarian ally CSU chief Horst Seehofer on Sunday backed Merkel, who recently denied suggestions that she might quit the grand coalition before the end of its term. This followed Merkel indicating in an interview that, at some point in the future, she might prefer to step down than face defeat at the polls. However, she did not set a timeframe.

Seehofer said he regarded any talk of the Chancellor resigning as "completely out of the question."

"There is nothing in the world with which she could or would want to swap, " Seehofer said.

Germany's rich and poor

The parliamentary leader of Germany's opposition Left party Gregor Gysi said his party's difficulties with the opposition Greens and Gabriel's center-left SPD did not hinge on foreign policy but instead the question of how to redistribute wealth in Germany.

During Germany's SPD-Greens federal coalition government between 1988 and 2005 led by Gerhard Schröder, both parties instituted policy that shifted gains from those below to those above, Gysi said.

Gysi said this trend must be stopped and a redistribution from those above to those below, in part through the introduction of a wealth tax.

Germany's 2013 government report on poverty and wealth showed wide disparities.

Half of all households combined possessed only one percent of all assets, while the wealthiest 10 percent of German households owned more than half of Germany's net assets.

ipj/msh (dpa, AFP)

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