Blow to Merkel in CDU power struggle

18th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

18 October 2004, BERLIN - The leader of Germany's opposition Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel, suffered a blow in a party power struggle Monday when a senior member rejected her appeal to take the key post of finance policy spokesman.

 18 October 2004

BERLIN - The leader of Germany's opposition Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel, suffered a blow in a party power struggle Monday when a senior member rejected her appeal to take the key post of finance policy spokesman.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, who was Merkel's predecessor as Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chairman, turned down her request that he take the high-profile parliamentary job.

"I have not made any dramatic error ... I just made an offer," said Merkel at a packed news briefing.

Merkel is seeking a successor for Friedrich Merz, a tax expert who had wanted to radically simplify Germany's dense jungle of tax laws. Merz resigned last week after being widely seen as having lost a power struggle with Merkel.

Schaeuble - who has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot by a deranged man in 1990 - remains one of the most influential people in the CDU despite having been forced to resign as chairman in connection with the party's massive slush fund scandal in 2000.

Merkel also dismissed warnings from a CDU state premier of a possible internal coup aimed at toppling her.

Dieter Althaus, premier of Thuringia state, said at the weekend he "could not rule out" that ongoing turbulence in the CDU was part of plot to eliminate Merkel.

Both Merkel and Althaus are from eastern Germany and Althaus complained that powerful CDU barons in western Germany never really accepted Merkel because she comes from the east and is a woman.

Althaus's remarks drew anger from other CDU leaders including the ambitious CDU Prime Minister of western Lower Saxony state, Christian Wulff.

"One cannot simply go public the way Dieter Althaus has done because it damages the party," Wulff complained.

Such wrangles both inside the CDU and with its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), are one reason the CDU/CSU has lost its commanding lead in the polls over German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD).

Early this year the CDU/CSU was coasting at over 50 per cent while the Chancellor's SPD crashed to record lows of just over 20 per cent.

But a Forsa Agency poll last week gave Schroeder's party 31 per cent - its highest rating since July 2003 - compared with 39 per cent for the CDU/CSU.


DPA


Subject: German news

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