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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 06:35 GMT 07:35 UK
The Parties battling for the Bundestag
The German Parliament
Elections to the Bundestag take place every 4 years

A total of 24 parties fielded election candidates. Most parties were too small to contest more than a handful of the 299 constituencies. Only five parties attempted anything like national representation.

Social Democrats (SPD):

Governing party, in coalition with Greens since last election in 1998. Gerhard Schroeder is standing for re-election as Chancellor.
SPD Facts
Oldest party
New "business-friendly" image
Failed to reduce unemployment
Against attack on Iraq
Greens as coalition partner
SPD is the oldest party in Germany with traditionally strong links with the labour movement. Schroeder has tried to broaden its appeal by cultivating a more "business-friendly" image. He has dubbed the SPD the "new centre".

His major problem has been unemployment. In 1998 - when nearly 4.1m were out of work - Schroeder said he should be judged by how well he could cut that figure. By 2000 it had gone down to 3.6m. Now the numbers have crept back to more than 4m.
Gerhard Schroeder of the SDP
Schroeder bounced back after being behind in the polls
The SPD looks set to lose support on any assessment of this record, but the party says that full employment is still the central goal of its labour policy.

It also wants to ensure lasting economic growth and social justice. Schroeder's prompt handling of the consequences of this summer's flooding in eastern Germany has been popular, as has his refusal to commit German troops to any possible US-led attack on Iraq.

Having lagged behind Edmund Stoiber for months, Schroeder has closed the gap in the final weeks of the campaign. He says he wants to continue the coalition with the Greens and has ruled out any contact with the reformed communist PDS.

Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU):

In opposition since 1998, when their leader Helmut Kohl lost to Schroeder. The CDU represents the whole of Germany except the southern state of Bavaria, which is the domain of its "sister party", the CSU.
Opposition since 1998
Edmund Stoiber from Bavaria
Wants lower taxes
Favours nuclear energy
Supports family values, individual responsibility
Attack on Iraq only with UN backing
A party funding scandal involving Kohl led to a crisis of confidence and personnel in the CDU from 1999 onwards.

Its new leader Angela Merkel was unable to mend the damage sufficiently. In January of this year she was obliged to make way for Edmund Stoiber from the CSU.

Stoiber points to the economic success enjoyed in Bavaria as a marker of his competence.
The challenger Edmund Stoiber
Stoiber wanted to build on his record in Bavaria
He wants to lower German tax rates and make the labour market more flexible. He is in favour of nuclear energy, and of promoting family values. With more Germans living longer than ever before, Stoiber says individuals must assume more responsibility and not rely on the state to finance their old age.

On foreign policy, he supports increasing the defence budget to enable German forces to take part in international missions. On Iraq, Stoiber initially criticized Schroeder's opposition to any attack, but he has since warned the US not to take any unilateral action outside the UN. Most likely coalition partner is the FDP.

Alliance 90/Greens:

Governing party since 1998, in coalition with SPD. The Greens were founded in 1980, emerging from west German environmentalist and pacifist groups. They allied with the east German citizens' group Alliance 90 in 1993.
Greens Facts
Develop renewable energy
Improve childrens' lives
Support integration of immigrants
Promote equality of women

For years the Greens were split on the issue of whether to participate in government, with some members fearing they would lose their radicalism on policies such as abandoning nuclear energy, or refusing to send German troops abroad. Their best-known representative,
Joschka Fischer of the Greens
Fischer has made his party electable
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, is a clear indication that the "pragmatic" wing won the argument.

The Greens say they're aiming to win 8% of the vote with a manifesto covering topics such as developing renewable energy sources, increasing food safety, improving the lives of children, promoting the integration of immigrants, giving women an equal share of power, and strengthening European democracy.

Free Democrats (FDP):

The FDP is a small opposition party which for many years was known as the "kingmaker" of German politics. It was in government coalitions for decades, both with the SPD and the CDU, until the SPD/Greens alliance won in 1998.
FDP Facts
"Kingmaker" of German politics
Flexible labour market
Cut "red tape"
Support small businesses
Its best-known figure is Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who was foreign minister when Germany was re-unified.

The FDP's liberal policies mean it puts a premium on helping individuals to help themselves. Its 18-point programme includes lower taxes, a more flexible labour market, cutting bureaucracy,
Guido Westerwelle of the FDP
Westerwelle's hopes were shattered
improving child care provision and education, and supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises as the prime job creators.

The party lost support throughout the Nineties. Guido Westerwelle, who was elected chairman in May 2001, has managed to stop the slide. The FDP says it's aiming for 18% in the election.

Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS):

The PDS is the successor to the ruling SED in communist East Germany.
PDS Facts
Reformed communists
Most support in eastern Germany
Wants social justice for east
Against Iraq attack
As such, its main support comes from voters in the East, where it presents itself as the advocate of their interests. The party chairwoman is Gabi Zimmer. Her message of social justice and peace strikes a chord with many east Germans, who reject what they see as increased militarism in Germany.

Gabi Zimmer of the PDS
PDS leader Gabi Zimmer
The party entered the Bundestag in 1998, when it just overcame the 5% barrier needed for representation. A breakdown of the result showed that support in the east hit 21.6%, whilst in west Germany it could only manage 1.2%. The party has since lost its most charismatic figure, Gregor Gysi. Opinion polls suggest it will again be touch-and-go this time.

The Far Right:

Extreme right-wing parties have never managed to overcome the 5% barrier needed for representation in the Bundestag. The nearest they came was in 1969, when the NPD gained 4.3%. In 1990, the year of re-unification, the Republicans scored the next best result, with 2.1%.

Since then, support has dipped below the 2% mark. The various groups find greater support at a regional level, where they tend to focus on local issues and grievances, mostly over immigration and unemployment.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Gerhard Schroeder

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