Angela Merkel confirms she will be next chancellor

10th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

10 October 2005, BERLIN - Conservative opposition leader Angela Merkel on Monday confirmed she had a green light to become the first woman to lead Germany in a grand coalition with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats as junior partner.

10 October 2005

BERLIN - Conservative opposition leader Angela Merkel on Monday confirmed she had a green light to become the first woman to lead Germany in a grand coalition with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats as junior partner.

Formal coalition negotiations will open Monday between her Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) and Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD). Talks are expected to be wrapped up by November 12, she said.

"The CDU/CSU will occupy the chancellery," said Merkel adding that her party had voted unanimously to start negotations with the SPD.

Asked how she had been informed that Schroeder had given up demands to stay on as chancellor, Merkel declined to reveal any details.

"I won't say anything about that," said Merkel who showed little emotion during her brief news conference.

Schroeder - who had been trying to cling to power after narrowly losing last month's elections - agreed to leave the government, said the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, quoting the chancellor.

"The course of my life now looks different," said Schroeder as quoted by the paper.

Schroeder did not appear before the press and instead sent SPD party leader Franz Muentefering to talk to reporters.

Asked if the Chancellor had formally announced he would stand down, Muentefering replied: "We did not talk about that - we didn't discuss personnel issues."

Analysts said Schroeder is holding back on his formal announcement to keep up pressure on the CDU/CSU for coalition negotiations.

"We have quite a few points on which we disagree for which we will have to find compromises on," admitted Merkel who nevertheless said she was optimistic.

Muentefering said the top priority would be measures to cut German unemployment which is currently over 11 per cent.

Merkel still must be elected as chancellor by the Bundestag, parliament's lower house and this is not expected to take place before next month, observers said.

The demand that Merkel head a grand coalition of the conservatives with Schroeder's SPD has been a "non-negotiable precondition" for the CDU/CSU throughout talks.

But the price exacted by the SPD for Schroeder's apparent decision to give up the chancellery is very high.

Sources told DPA the SPD has secured control of almost all key ministry portfolios totaling half the posts in the cabinet.

The SPD will take over the foreign ministry, the finance ministry and the labour ministry. It will also hold the ministries of justice, health, transport, environment and foreign aid, said the sources.

Merkel's CDU/CSU will get the defence ministry, the interior ministry and a new ministry for economics and high technology. It will also hold the portfolios for consumer protection and agriculture, education, and family affairs.

The chancellor and chancellery chief of staff count as two additional posts for the CDU/CSU. This leaves both the SPD and the CDU/CSU with eight cabinet-level posts each.

Bavaria's state premier and CSU chairman Edmund Stoiber will move to Berlin and head the economics and high-tech ministry, sources said. Senior CDU stalwart Wolfgang Schaeuble will be interior minister, a post he held from 1989 to 1991 under former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The consumer affairs and farm ministry will go to Horst Seehofer; the family portfolio to Ursula von der Leyen; and education to Annette Schavan, sources said. CDU/CSU chancellery chief will be Norbert Roettgen.

This would be Germany's first 'grand coalition' government at national level in almost four decades. The SPD and CDU shared power briefly in 1966-69.

*sidebar1*Four of Germany's 16 states - Schleswig-Holstein, Saxony, Bremen and Brandenburg - are currently ruled by 'grand coalitions' forged by the SPD and CDU.

Opinion polls show most Germans are in favour of power-sharing between the major parties.

The fight over the chancellorship follows last month's elections, which produced political deadlock in Germany with neither the SPD nor Merkel's CDU/CSU - in combination with their respective political allies - securing enough seats to gain a parliamentary majority.

While the CDU/CSU emerged as the biggest political bloc in the new parliament, the SPD had insisted that it was the still the strongest individual party given that the conservatives are comprised of the CDU and their separate Bavarian sister party, the CSU.


Subject: German news

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