Kohl confident of election victory

The Associated Press

BONN, Germany Taunting his rival and appearing confident of victory in next month's election, Chancellor Helmut Kohl fended off accusations Wednesday that his 12 years in office have harmed Germany.

In a heated parliamentary debate, Kohl noted that the opposition Social Democrats have been unable to unseat him in the past three elections.

"We've been sitting here for 12 years," said Kohl, smiling. "I can accept that you think I've been here too long. But I'm still sitting here."

Kohl also mocked Social Democratic challenger Rudolf Scharping for picking two of the party's most popular politicians Gerhard Schroeder and Oskar Lafontaine as the two main people in Scharping's shadow Cabinet. Scharping hopes to win more votes with Schroeder and Lafontaine at his side.

"There's one thing I don't understand. Why do you need three?" Kohl asked.

After trailing Scharping at the start of the year, Kohl has passed his rival in opinion polls.

If Kohl wins, he will be just two years away from equaling Konrad Adenauer's record for the longest-serving postwar chancellor: 14 years.

During the debate, Scharping and other Social Democrats accused the chancellor of pursuing harmful policies in Europe matters, social welfare, unemployment and other areas.

Kohl said his three terms in office have been good for Germany and the Social Democrats wouldn't have performed as well under the same conditions.

Scharping accused Kohl of cowardice.

A day earlier, Kohl's party used its parliamentary majority to make Wednesday's session of the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, the last one before the Oct. 16 election.

Scharping said Kohl arranged this to avoid another debate with him.

"You chicken out repeatedly. If you were really as confident as you seem, you would use every opportunity to have a debate," Scharping said.

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