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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 10:34 GMT 11:34 UK
Schroeder buoyed by flood disaster
Man carries sandbag past posters of election candidates
Floods have dominated the election campaign so far
The devastating floods which have swept through parts of Germany have brought with them a boost in the opinion polls for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat Party (SPD).


In the east, people are taking note of who is helping them out - Schroeder is currently the strong man of the moment

Rolf Reissig
Political analyst
One month before the country votes in legislative elections, the SPD is starting to close the gap on its conservative rivals, according to the latest opinion polls.

A survey carried out by the Electoral Research group puts the SPD up by two percentage points to 38%, and the conservatives down two percentage points to 39%.

A separate poll for ZDF television even gives the SPD - with 40% - a narrow lead over the conservative CDU/CSU coalition for the first time in nine months.

Unfulfilled promises

The poll boost is seen as a reaction to Mr Schroeder's widely applauded response to catastrophic flooding which has wrought extensive damage, particularly in the already struggling east of the country.

Gerhard Schroeder
Mr Schroeder got his boots on quickly
The Greens, Mr Schroeder's coalition partners, currently achieving around 7% in the polls, are also seen to have benefited from the floods - making much of the need to implement sound ecological policies.

The SPD's poor performance in the polls over the last year has been prompted by its failure to make good on several key pledges - in particular a promise to cut unemployment.

But the speed at which Mr Schroeder donned his Wellington boots and formulated a flood action plan appears to have revived his party's chances.

His conservative rival, Edmund Stoiber, was on holiday when the floods began, and his own flood strategy has been less well received.

Tax dispute

Mr Stoiber
Stoiber: Plan was rejected by the Central Bank
The conservatives have a patchy record on the environment, and before the floods had pledged to rescind a current ecological tax on fossil fuels if elected on 22 September.

Mr Stoiber has also been wrong-footed this week by Schroeder's proposals to delay tax cuts in order to fund relief efforts, a plan generally accepted as correct by both economic experts and voters.

Mr Stoiber suggested the cleanup should be funded instead from central bank profits, but the bank itself rejected the suggestion, saying it would put Germany at risk of breaching European Union limits on budget deficits.

'Man of the moment'

Most importantly, Mr Schroeder's plan and his activity in the past week is believed to have improved his standing among voters in the formerly communist east, whose support is crucial to electoral success.

"In the east, people are taking note of who is helping them out. On top of that many people don't really relate to Edmund Stoiber," political analyst Rolf Reissig wrote in the weekly Spiegel.

"Culturally he seems very foreign, while Schroeder is currently the strong man of the moment."


European havoc

Germany ravaged

Prague drama

Freak phenomenon?

FORUM

TALKING POINT
See also:

22 Aug 02 | Business
19 Aug 02 | Business
16 Aug 02 | Business
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