Germans protest budget cuts
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday urged her squabbling government to fall in line to sell austerity measures, a day after thousands of sceptical Germans protested the cuts in demonstrations that injured 15 police officers.
All of the centre-right coalition should now stand up for the decision to pass the package and explain the measures to their voters, Merkel told the Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
“We can only gain reliability and trust in the citizens’ opinion if we stand up for our own decisions,” she was quoted as saying.
Merkel last Monday announced plans to trim the country’s budget by some euro80 billion (US$97 billion) by 2014 with a package that includes raising taxes and cutting welfare benefits by some euro30 billion. The measures have been sharply criticised by the opposition, but have also sparked heavy infighting in the government coalition.
Several politicians from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union said they shared the opposition’s view that the austerity measures were inflicting the bulk of the burden on the society’s weakest. They called for raising the income tax for top earners – a proposal Merkel rejected.
The CDU’s coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, labelled some of its conservative allies “wild boars”. Bavaria’s Christian Social Union, the third coalition member, retorted that the FDP were “a bunch of cucumbers”.
“Merkel loses control over the coalition,” read the headline of the leading Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper’s weekend edition.
The dissent comes at a rough time for Merkel, who also is increasingly facing an uphill battle to secure the majority for her candidate for the German presidency on June 30. That follows an embarrassing state election loss in May, the euro debt crisis and a prominent conservative state governor’s impromptu resignation. (AP)