Merkel's tired homecoming shows cracks in campaign

The handsome Old Market Square of this small Baltic port was barely two-thirds full for Ms Merkel. It was not the boost that the CDU leader needed as members of her own party publicly questioned her support of Paul Kirchhof, an advocate of a 25 per cent flat tax whom the SPD has demonised as a neo-conservative radical.

If the CDU and their mooted partners, the liberal FDP fail to win a majority, Merkel's party could be forced into an alliance with Gerhard Schröder's SPD, a move which could kill the economic reforms that have been the centrepiece of her campaign.

Her promises to tackle Germany's record unemployment - the main theme of her speech and the biggest social problem in the former east Germany - drew only patchy applause last night, perhaps because as the local MP, she was deemed not to have done enough. Some hinted afterwards that she might have sacrificed local interests to her national ambitions.

However, she looked anything but an ambitious politician yesterday. She tried a walkabout in the cobbled streets, but seemed listless, uncommunicative and extremely tired. Once at the podium, she tried lambasting Schröder over unemployment, but sounded as if she was reading a lecture on economics.

The crowd, even in this relatively prosperous town, looked like a gathering of those left behind in the emptying area that was East Germany: young couples with children, elderly people and many half-drunk and bestudded youths.

But, of course, this rally was less about meeting the people in Stralsund than it was about television airtime. The backdrop, the filigree façade of Stralsund's distinctive Gothic town hall, and the colourful medieval market square were picture postcard Germany. For television viewers, this was "Angela coming home". In fact, there seemed little gratitude, or even warmth, on either side.

Ominously, the only times the crowd came alive was when she touched on foreign workers, saying "those who do not accept our constitution have no right to be here and will have to leave", and when she ruled out Turkish membership of the EU. A small group of youths who had barracked hoarsely up until that point, enthusiastically waved the red and black placards of the far-right NPD.

For the best part of an hour, Ms Merkel tried to rescue some of the policies savaged by Mr Schröder and his SPD campaigners over the past week.But to be addressing misinterpretations of her policies at this stage of the campaign does not bode well for Ms Merkel and her centre-right CDU/CSU alliance.

Three years ago, at an infinitely more modest Stralsund rally, Ms Merkel still spoke as an intellectual, rather than a campaigner, but she came across as energetic and optimistic, with a bright future before her. Then, the home crowd was curious and engaged. Three years on, Stralsund seems conspicuously more prosperous. There just seems less hope around.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power