BERLIN — Angela Merkel’s conservatives unveiled their manifesto on Monday for the upcoming German election, promising to lower taxes and put a new emphasis on internal security and families.
The centerpiece of the program of the chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is a proposed €15 billion tax cut for people in lower- and middle-income brackets, which would be achieved in part by raising the threshold for higher income tax.
Unlike Merkel’s Social Democrat (SPD) rival Martin Schulz, who wants to offset his own proposed tax cuts by hiking the top tax rate and inheritance taxes, Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer ruled out any increases, pointing to the government’s overflowing coffers.
The conservatives, who presented their program in Berlin, are the last of the major parties to jump into the fray with a list of concrete election promises for the national elections on September 24. Given a well-performing job market and strong growth, the CDU/CSU seems confident that voters are in the mood for continuity, not radical change.
As a result, the conservative program largely remained on familiar terrain, promising better coordination between security agencies and an increased focus on digitalization. A pledge to achieve full employment by 2025, which would entail reducing unemployment by roughly 2.5 percent, echoes similar statements made by Merkel’s government ahead of the last national election in 2013.
Other promises, such as additional tax breaks for families with children, were designed to demonstrate that the conservatives are strong on social issues — an echo of 2013, when the CDU/CSU platform embraced the idea of a “pension for mothers” to compensate for savings lost while bringing up children.
“Our project for the country’s future is called prosperity and security for all,” Merkel said.
Within the context of Germany’s €3.1 trillion economy, tax cuts of €15 billion wouldn’t be an overwhelming burden. The SPD has promised cuts of similar size, while the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) see a €30 billion in tax cuts as realistic.
That means the scope of tax cuts could be a point of contention in any coalition negotiations between the conservatives and the FDP following the election, an outcome that pollsters view as possible.
Merkel and Seehofer remain divided over how to handle the influx of refugees and migrants. An annual cap on the number of people entering the country, a measure long demanded by the CSU, did not make it into the election program, though it will be part of the “Bavarian plan” which the CSU plans to release later this month.
One conspicuous omission in the conservative manifesto was the description, as in Merkel’s 2013 election platform, of the U.S. as Germany’s “most important friend” outside Europe. Instead, it was demoted to the rank of “most important partner.” The program nonetheless reiterates a commitment to devoting 2 percent of GDP to defense spending, a pledge that has been the subject of heightened tensions between the U.S. and other NATO member countries.