Kohl rallies faithful as unemployment threatens his poll hopes

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

HAMBURG (Reuter) - Chancellor Helmut Kohl congratulating Theo Waigel, leader of Bavaria's Christian Social Union, yesterday at a congress of Germany's Christian Democrats, which was held to prepare the party for a difficult election year.

Chanting 'Helmut] Helmut]' delegates wound up the three-day meeting after Mr Kohl's closing call to arms. The 63-year-old Chancellor delivered his final pep talk before a series of 19 ballots in 1994, starting with the Lower Saxony state poll on 13 March. The general election is in October.

But Mr Kohl, facing his most difficult election challenge after nearly 12 years in power, gave his struggling party few new ideas for tackling Germany's record unemployment of 4 million, the issue voters say overshadows all others. Mr Waigel, the Finance Minister, told delegates: 'This is not a year for political softies.'

Speakers spent more time attacking the opposition leader, Rudolf Scharping, 46, whose Social Democrats hold a 41 to 35 per cent lead over the CDU in opinion polls.

(Photograph omitted)

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