Jobs the issue in German poll

The chubby man on the podium addressing an election rally in the university square in Heidelberg struggles to raise his booming voice above the cacophony of whistles and boos.

He talks of war and peace and freedom, and of the common European home, but his message only seems to send the crowd into a frenzy. "What about jobs, Helmut?" they shout, hoisting placards proclaiming: "4.3 million unemployed".

Chancellor Helmut Kohl ploughs on, unruffled by this unexpectedly hostile reception at his alma mater. "We are Germans, we want to remain Germans, but we are German Europeans and European Germans." He then turns to jobs, but there is no place in his analysis for the European dimension of that dreadful statistic.

Until recently, European integration was recognised by every mainstream political party as the greatest national goal.Now all that has changed in the southern state of Baden- Wurttemberg and its picturesque university town. In Sunday's elections to the Land assembly, voters are being asked to choose between the European dream and the vision of a new economic miracle.

"Stability and employment take priority now - so postpone monetary union," urge the election posters of local Social Democrats, pioneers of the SPD's volte-face on Europe. They argue that the Maastricht criteria for monetary union shackle Germany, preventing it from spending its way out of recession. "I think we should set in motion a European growth and employment initiative at the Maastricht review conference . . . and postpone monetary union for three to four years," says Dieter Spori, the SPD's leader in Baden-Wurttemberg.

Whether this line is adopted by the national leadership depends on how well the party does on Sunday. The omens are not good. "I don't care what happens in 1999. What I want to know is whether there will be a job for me when I get my degree in the summer," says Rita Meissner, one of the students booing Mr Kohl.

Though the SPD's poll rating has gone up by about 5 per cent during the campaign, it remains a distant second behind the Christian Democrats. Even that modest rise has been attributed to another populist slogan which the SPD does not dare to daub across the walls: the call to keep out ethnic Germans immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The other parties are convinced that the SPD is barking up the wrong tree. "[Monetary union] is not an issue that will decide the election," says Walter Doring, the regional leader of the Free Democrats. At stake for him is the survival of his party, and by consequence the survival of Mr Kohl's government.

If the FDP falls below the 5 per cent threshold that bars the way to the three regional assemblies up for grabs on Sunday, then its leaders would feel compelled to leave the coalition in Bonn, depriving Mr Kohl of his majority.

"This is a question of existence not just for the FDP in Baden-Wurttemberg but also for the coalition in Bonn," Mr Doring asserts. At the moment his party is hovering around 6 per cent in Baden-Wurttemberg and neighbouring Rhineland- Palatinate, but is perilously close to annihilation in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. Two out of three would be regarded as a good result, and Mr Kohl would be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before