Merkel challenger under fire for saying chancellor underpaid

Sun Dec 30, 2012 4:20am EST
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By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrueck was widely criticized on Sunday, even by his own center-left Social Democrats (SPD), for saying German leaders were underpaid.

Steinbrueck has struggled to gain ground against Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of next September's election, in part due to lingering criticism over him earning 1.25 million euros ($1.65 million) as an after-dinner speaker in the past three years.

The remarks from the former finance minister about what he called the inadequate compensation for the chancellor drew speedy rebukes across the country's political spectrum, including from the last SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"A German chancellor does not earn enough based on the performance that is required of her or him compared with the jobs of others who have far less responsibility and far more pay," Steinbrueck, 65, was quoted on Sunday by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper saying.

"Nearly every savings bank director in North Rhine-Westphalia earns more than the chancellor does," Steinbrueck said of his home state.

Merkel's pay is set to rise by 930 euros per month to 17,106 euros in 2013 along with pay rises for her ministers and members of parliament, increases that have been criticized by some for sending the wrong signal in an era of austerity.

"Some of the debates kicked up by the 'guardians of public virtue' are grotesque and are harmful for anyone considering getting involved in politics," Steinbrueck said.

ELECTION   Continued...

Top candidate for the 2013 German general elections Peer Steinbrueck of the German Social Democratic Party addresses a news conference in Berlin December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz