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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 00:59 GMT 01:59 UK
Worries behind Schroeder glitz
gerhard-schroeder.de
Schroeder has even launched his own website to woo voters

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder returned to his home town of Hanover to launch what could be an uphill struggle for the re-election.

Edmund Stoiber
Stoiber hopes to attract disillusioned voters
He was the governor of the state of Lower Saxony before he became chancellor, so the crowd in front of the Opera House in Hanover welcomed him as one of their own.

He will be lucky to have such a warm reception everywhere else he goes in Germany, before this election at the end of September.

Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats have launched their campaign three weeks early.

And that has been taken as a sign that they are genuinely concerned about opinion polls which place them firmly behind their conservative challengers.

Broken promises

Political analysts here put that down to worries about the economy.

Cyclist passes Schroeder poster
The battle for votes is intensifying

There are about four million people unemployed in Germany - only slightly fewer than when Mr Schroeder became chancellor.

He promised then that he would cut the number of unemployed to 3.5 million, and his opponents have been quick to remind him of his failed promise.

Speaking at the rally on Monday, Mr Schroeder admitted that his government had not achieved all it had wanted to.

But he called on Germany's voters to give him another four years to finish what he started.

He also emphasised that his party stood for social justice and promised to put more effort into education and equality.

And he said he would not allow Germany to be dragged into a war with Iraq against its wishes.

That drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd as Mr Schroeder is painting his party as a safe pair of hands in foreign affairs.

Popularity fading

The chancellor looked relaxed with the crowd - he is hoping his personal popularity will help him in this election.

He is good with words and at ease with the television cameras.

He has been a popular politician for the last four years, but even that seems to be slipping from his grasp.

One opinion poll shows him lagging behind his conservative challenger Edmund Stoiber in the popularity stakes.

That really would be bad news for Mr Schroeder, for Mr Stoiber is seen as dull and a poor media performer.

Mr Schroeder would be hoping a head-to-head televised debate with Mr Stoiber later this month will help him turn the corner.

One leading polling institute is saying this election is already lost to Mr Schroeder but many here believe that may be premature.

Other polls show that a third of German voters have yet to make up their minds.

They could still give Gerhard Schroeder another chance and he has seven weeks to convince them.

Germany goes to the polls on 22 September.

See also:

05 Aug 02 | Europe
23 Jul 02 | Europe
18 Jul 02 | Europe
17 Jul 02 | Media reports
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