A hard task ahead: what's in store for Angela Merkel

11th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

Angela Merkel has not even been formally elected as Germany's new chancellor and already scepticism is being heard from all sides - including from her supposed ally Edmund Stoiber. Leon Mangasarian looks at the unfriendly reception Merkel is getting.

Merkel has only just been chosen as chancellor but is already under attack

Angela Merkel has not even been formally elected as Germany's new chancellor at the head of a power-sharing grand coalition and already scepticism is raining down from all sides.

Most damning are remarks from her conservative ally and designated economics minister, Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber, who all but described Merkel as powerless in her future position as German leader.

Given that Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) will each have eight posts in the new cabinet, Stoiber blithely announced Germany's first woman chancellor will have "no classical right to set the direction or give orders".

Stoiber added: "Naturally the chancellor has a special responsibility but one must see this as a common task."

In other words, Merkel will merely be a first among equals in the cabinet, according to the ambitious Stoiber who narrowly failed to defeat Schroeder in 2002 and is widely believed to still be plotting to take the helm.

Reform fears

*quote1*Foreign exchange markets and business leaders were also reacting with scepticism amid fears a grand coalition will fudge reforms needed to jump-start Germany's economy which has been in stagnation for much of the past five years.

Unemployment is over 11 per cent in Europe's biggest economy and Berlin is poised to violate the eurozone's budget deficit limit for the fourth year in a row in 2005.

The euro continued to fall against the dollar in Frankfurt and was trading at 1.2036 dollars, down 0.23 per cent over its opening price on Tuesday morning.

Low expectations

"We are pretty reserved and do not expect any major reforms with a grand coalition," said Eckart Tuchtfeld, a senior economist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Tuchtfeld said under a grand coalition there would be no attempt to revamp Germany's labour market which imposes strict limits on the sacking of employees, nor to change the country's social welfare insurance system which adds major non-wage costs to hiring workers.

Merkel had wanted to push through such reforms but the SPD firmly rejects major change in these areas.

The one area of possible progress is corporate tax reform, said Tuchtfeld, adding however that even here the bank was skeptical over chances for any sweeping changes.

On the attack

Predictably, members of Schroeder's SPD have been hammering away at Merkel.

Most dismissive was the SPD left-winger Michael Mueller, who functioned as his party's election campaign attack dog against the conservatives.

"People were mentally prepared for a weak chancellor. It's going to be very difficult with her because I simply think she can't do it," said Mueller in ZDF TV interview.

Not a sign of quality

*quote2*The outgoing SPD family minister, Renate Schmidt, warned that some SPD members of parliament would vote against Merkel.

Schmidt, who is a leading feminist in the outgoing government, was even dismissive of Merkel being the first woman to lead Germany.

"Being a woman is not a sign of quality," snapped Schmidt, who noted that Merkel only rose to power in 2000 after the CDU's massive slush fund scandal swept away the old male guard.

*sidebar1*A hard task

These multiple attacks on Merkel will not many it any easier for her to impose authority over formal coalition talks with Schroeder's SPD which are due to begin Monday and are supposed to be wrapped up by November 12.

If all goes well and both parties approve a grand coalition pact, Merkel will have to be elected as chancellor in the Bundestag, parliament's lower house, in a vote expected for the second half of November.

But weeks of hard bargaining and intensified sniping can be expected before any deal.

11 October 2005

Copyright DPA with Expatica 

Subject: Angela Merkel, German elections, German chancellor, German news

0 Comments To This Article