Rivals scent blood as `Kohl system' fails

The power struggle within the German government was suspended for a few hours yesterday as Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his ministers closed ranks in the face of an opposition challenge. But even as Mr Kohl was defending his record during an emergency parliamentary debate, factional battles inside the ruling coalition raged on.

The infighting is waged on many fronts by a bewildering array of protagonists, but there is no doubt about the prize. Mr Kohl's party senses that after 14 years at the top the old man is running out of steam, prompting ambitious men and women to get their retaliation in first. Mud is being slung in all directions, employing newspapers allied with the different factions. "The Kohl system has broken down," revealed an anonymous Christian Democrat bigwig to the Suddeutsche Zeitung.

The "Kohl system", a form of paternalism in which opponents were paid off for the sake of party unity, relied on the assumption that the Chancellor always knew best. It worked for 14 years but functions no longer because he has lost the aura of invincibility. Though elections are not due for a year, he will be limping towards the home stretch for the rest of his tenure, having botched the two vote-winning programmes that had been destined to return him to power. The overhaul of the tax system, unveiled last month, is a disaster. A week later, the cabinet gave birth to another mouse: a pension reform which will not reform them much before 2030.

At the same time, Mr Kohl's pledge to halve unemployment by 2000 has turned into a joke. The number that needs to be halved has gone up by 500,000 since he made his promise a year ago. Post-war records will tumble again this year, and nobody can see where the new jobs will be created by a government bent on pursuing deflationary policies in order to meet the Maastricht criteria.

The party grassroots and regional grandees are clamouring for a change of direction.

The crisis has the air of the end of the Thatcher era, except that in Germany the grenades being lobbed into Mr Kohl's office are mainly from the right.

In yesterday's debate, the Chancellor reiterated his aim of merely reforming the welfare state, seemingly oblivious to calls from his own ranks for a radical overhaul. His Finance Minister, Theo Waigel, read the party mood better, pointedly praising the employment record of Britain and the US.

But Mr Waigel himself is under pressure from his right-wing constituency in Bavaria to drift further in their direction, while coming under attack from his leftist cabinet colleague, Norbert Blum, the Labour Minister. Mr Blum voted against the Finance Minister's tax reforms, so the right torpedoed Mr Blum's pension plans. Meanwhile, the hard-right shot down the Waigel blueprint.

Confused? - so is Chancellor Kohl, who used to have a capable right-hand man to sort out this kind of mess.

But his trusted aide and anointed successor, Wolfgang Schauble, does not appear to be pulling his weight any more.

This may have something to do with an interview at the beginning of the year, when Mr Schauble broke a taboo by announcing his intention to succeed his master.

"Can a cripple become Chancellor?" ran the question on the magazine's cover, below a picture of Mr Schauble in a wheelchair. Germany's number two was paralysed from the waist down in an attack a few years ago. His answer to the question was an emphatic "yes", and since then bets on Helmut Kohl's record-breaking longevity are off.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed in ...

Eye for Detail?

£41000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Eye for Detail? S...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?