An old man in need receives vegetable soup in a plastic cup to take away from the soup kitchen "Kana" in a poor district of the city of Dortmund, western Germany, April 7, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
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For all its economic success, Germany has a growing problem with inequality and poverty, and yet Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be deflecting the blame so far as the battle lines are drawn for elections in September.Sensing an opportunity to beat the conservative chancellor on Sept. 24, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) are trying to mobilize disgruntled Germans.Yet Merkel's message that economic growth is steady, unemployment is at a record low and falling, and state finances are sound appears to be resonating more with voters like Rena.She vents her frustration not at the chancellor, who has led Germany for more than 11 years, but at the SPD that enacted labor market and welfare reforms in the mid-2000s, badly hurting its own traditional working-class supporters. However, while the election is set to be tightly contested, the conservatives have reopened a lead in recent polls with about 35 percent support, around five points ahead of the SPD, now the junior partner in Merkel's coalition.The SPD paid a heavy political price, losing a significant section of its working-class support base and three successive elections to the conservatives starting in 2005 .Nevertheless, the conservatives and SPD must contend with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).
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