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Caroline Wyatt in Berlin
"CDU support in Germany is flagging fast"
 real 28k

Saturday, 15 January, 2000, 21:45 GMT
German SPD demands election re-run

Koch and Kanther CDU Hesse Premier Roland Koch (left) of the will not resign

Germany's governing Social Democrats have demanded that a state election held last year be re-run following the latest revelations of financial irregularities by the party of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) moved almost DM7m ($3.65m) abroad from the state of Hesse in the early 1980s, and returned it, with interest, in the 1990s - in contravention of regulations governing the funding of political parties.

The Social Democrats (SPD) now say the CDU's narrow election victory in Hesse last year should be declared void.

CDU - Money laundering like the Mafia
Bild Zeitung

The SPD's vice-chairman in Hesse, Gerhard Boekel, has accused CDU state premier Roland Koch of having lied to state parliament "in an incredible way".

The man who Mr Koch ousted in last year's Hesse election, current Finance Minister Hans Eichel, has urged a fresh ballot.

"To prevent much greater damage to democracy, there is only one way out - the voters must decide anew," he said.

The CDU has rejected the demand, saying Mr Koch knew nothing of the illicit financial dealings. Mr Koch has refused to resign over the affair.

An SPD victory in a new Hesse state election would win them back a majority in the upper house of parliament.

That in turn would eliminate all obstacles to the passing of key government reforms to the tax, pension and health systems.

Mafia methods

Influential commentators in Germany's media have called for the CDU party leadership to resign.

"CDU - money laundering like the Mafia," said the headline in Bild, the country's biggest-selling newspaper and a traditional supporter of the CDU.

Wolfgang Schaeuble CDU leader Wolfgang Schaeuble has also admitted funding irregularities

"The CDU must make a clean start. Not just the party's 640,000 upstanding members, but all of us, deserve no less," the newspaper wrote.

Der Spiegel reported that the money came from a Swiss account set up by the party's then treasurer Casimir Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein, and that much of it had stemmed from the "Flick" party funding scandal in the 1980s.

The invested money was returned to Germany in the form of anonymous bequests which did not appear, as required by law, in the party accounts, Manfred Kanther, former interior minister and the CDU's regional leader in Hesse in the 1980s, has admitted.

The CDU itself, under Helmut Kohl, introduced the party financing law which requires donations exceeding DM20,000 (US$10,000) to be declared.

State of shock

The BBC's Berlin correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, says CDU supporters are in a state of shock at the continuing scandal.

It has already tarnished the reputation of Mr Kohl - Germany's leader for 16 years - and more recently his successor as party leader, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

All this is very hard to take
Angela Merkel, CDU

Mr Kohl has admitted accepting $1m in anonymous cash donations and running secret party accounts, but he denies that the money influenced his government's decisions.

He is facing a criminal investigation by Bonn state prosecutors.

The CDU is trying to focus on the state election next month in Schleswig-Holstein, despite the relentless revelations which have reduced its chances of winning.

Party general secretary Angela Merkel has admitted that "all this is very hard to take."

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl party hit by new scandal
10 Jan 00 |  Europe
German party funding scandal widens
07 Jan 00 |  Europe
CDU turns its back on Kohl
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl scandal: The story so far
04 Jan 00 |  Europe
Kohl's mark on history
03 Jan 00 |  Europe
Cash scandal threatens Kohl legacy

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