German center-left celebrates 150 years
LEIPZIG - Agence France-Presse
German Chancellor Merkel (L) shakes hands with French President Hollande during festivities to mark the 150th anniversary of Germany’s SPD party. AFP photoGermany’s Social Democrats mark their 150th birthday on May 23, with French President François Hollande as guest speaker and Chancellor Angela Merkel paying a rare compliment to her election-year rivals as an “unyielding voice of democracy.”
Cheered on arrival, the French Socialist president praised German social and labor reforms implemented by former center-left Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. “Progress also means making courageous choices in difficult times to save jobs and anticipate industry changes, and that’s what Gerhard Schroeder did here in Germany and which allowed your country to move ahead of others,” he said to his center-left allies, who are battling poor poll ratings as they try to unseat Merkel in Sept. 22 elections. Merkel also praised the historical role of the SPD as “a valiant and unyielding voice of democracy in Germany.”
Former chancellors Schroeder and Helmut Schmidt sat in the front row as a giant screen showed tributes from former leaders including Britain’s Tony Blair and Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev.
Germany’s oldest political party has invited nearly 50 current and former heads of state and government as it celebrates its turbulent history, which saw it advance workers rights, resist the Nazis and win the vote for women. The party will also look to the future as it seeks to relaunch itself at the event in Leipzig, the eastern city where the party’s precursor, the General German Workers Association, was founded in 1863.