In Germany, Campaigning on Manufacturing, Competitiveness

By January 17, 2011Economy

In reading governors’ State of the State addresses this month, we’ve been struck by how few specific references to “manufacturing” and “industry” there have been. In U.S. House elections last fall, manufacturing and manufacturing jobs were major campaign themes. Now, at the state level, governors are talking in more general terms about the economy and jobs and, understandably, state budget crises.

In Germany, though, manufacturing still figures prominently in the political debate.

The Christian Democrats (CDU), who head Germany’s federal government in a coalition with the Liberals (FDP), completed their annual party leadership retreat in Mainz last weekend. Tops on the agenda was a declaration of campaign themes for seven state parliamentary elections this year, including three in March: Sachsen-Anhalt, Baden-Württemberg, and Rheinland-Pfalz.

This ARD TV report summarizes the themes: “CDU declares conservative themes for state elections.” (Our translation)

Thomas Berbner, ARD: The Chancellor pledged her party’s allegiance to the core themes of the Christian Democrats: The CDU intends to strengthen the manufacturing sector and improve its competitiveness. Construction of new rail, roads and electric transmission lines will contribute to this goal.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: We are making a clear statement that German is an industrial country. That’s certainly true as well for a state like Rheinland-Pfalz, of course, but also for the other states.
Berbner: The top candidates for the upcoming state elections welcomed the message.
Julia Kloeckner, chairman of the CDU Rheinland-Pfalz: The wind is at our backs, thanks to Berlin. Germany came out of the crisis exceedingly well. The chancellor has led the federal government wisely, other countries look at us and say, “That’s right. The people have work there, and in fact, more work than in decades.”
Berbner: Baden-Württemberg intends to fully align itself with the platform of the party leadership. Minister-President Stefan Mappus believes that skeptical core voters will return to the party as the economic recovery gains hold.
Stefan Mappus: I’m relatively certain that the people of Baden and Württemberg who have their feet on the ground on the end of the day will decide accordingly – and they know that Baden-Württemberg is at the forefront of all the states – and we will do everything possible, together, to keep it that way.
Berbner: At the conclusion, Angela Merkel made one thing clear: Despite all the good economic data, there will not be any quick tax reductions. And even with all the optimism, CDU leadership is concerned about possible landmines before it: Campaign managers regard the FDP’s weakness as a strategic risk. If the coalition partner fails in important state elections, the majority for economic-friendly policies will also be in doubt.

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