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Chancellor Candidate Steinmeier Pledges 4 Million Jobs By 2020

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who faces off with Angela Merkel in next month's parliamentary elections, has pledged to create millions of jobs. It is drawing sharp criticism from rivals.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who faces off with Angela Merkel in next month's parliamentary elections, has pledged to create millions of jobs. It is drawing sharp criticism from rivals.

Things are not looking particularly encouraging for Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who's heading the Social Democrats' (SPD) ticket during next month's election. The SPD is lagging about 10 percentage points behind Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), in opinion polls.

In a bid to boost his flagging election campaign, Steinmeier will present his so-called "Germany Plan" on Monday outlining his views on creating new jobs in the renewable energy, healthcare and services industries.

"We will show that with smart policies Germany can create a total of four million new jobs in the next decade," Steinmeier wrote in a detailed, 67-page paper, excerpts of which have been published in Der Spiegel newsmagazine.

"We want to conquer unemployment by 2020," said Steinmeier, whose center-left SPD has been in a grand coalition with Merkel's CDU for the last four years -- an arrangement neither party is happy with.

So while the Christian Democrats are enjoying a summer break ahead of next month's polls, Steinmeier is seeking to strengthen his bid to unseat Merkel with his ambitious employment plan.

The pledge to create four million new jobs also comes at a time when economists are predicting that the global economic downturn will push the number of jobless in Germany to four million by the end of the year, and to five million by 2011.
  
  
SPD promise criticized

Steinmeier's strategy is not going down well with the CDU-CSU alliance. German Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg of the CSU has sharply criticized Steinmeier's pledge.

“People are tired of being bombarded with election campaign promises. They expect concrete ideas but there's little of that in the SPD's proposals so far,“ he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Dirk Niebel, general secretary of the Free Democrat Party (FDP), with which Merkel's CDU hopes to form an alliance, described Steinmeier's promise as “an act of desperation” as the SPD seeks to regain lost ground just weeks before the election.
  
   
dpa