Germany's conservativesclose ranks behind Merkel

20th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

20 September 2005, BERLIN - Germany's conservatives closed ranks behind Angela Merkel on Tuesday by strongly backing her as parliamentary leader after elections failed to produce a solid majority, leaving the party in a bitter power struggle with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

20 September 2005

BERLIN - Germany's conservatives closed ranks behind Angela Merkel on Tuesday by strongly backing her as parliamentary leader after elections failed to produce a solid majority, leaving the party in a bitter power struggle with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Merkel was re-elected as Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) parliamentary chief with a thumping majority of over 98 per cent of the party's 225 new Bundestag members. This compares with 93.7 per cent per cent three years ago.

There had been fears after Sunday's far worse than expected CDU/CSU election result that the vote would be used as a first step to topple Merkel, an eastern German, who has only grudging support from some of the mainly male party barons in western Germany.

Although the CDU/CSU, gained the most seats, its performance was regarded as a huge disappointment given wide dissatisfaction with Chancellor Schroeder's ruling SPD-Greens coalition over the weak economy and high unemployment.

German politics have been deadlocked after Merkel's Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) came in first on Sunday with 35.2 per cent compared to 34.3 per cent for Schroeder's party.

Merkel declared victory and said she would set up the next German government.

But shortly afterward, Schroeder went on national TV to say he was the winner and planned to stay on as chancellor in a new coalition.

The SPD argues that the CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister affiliate are actually two separate parties and that their 27.8 per cent and 7.4 per cent of the national vote must be counted separately - meaning the SPD came in first.

"Do you seriously think my party will accept this offer for talks with Frau Merkel? ... Under her leadership she will never get a coalition with my party," declared Schroeder after the vote.

In other developments, Franz Muentefering easily won re-election as SPD parliamentary leader with over 95 per cent.

"I know we have difficult times before us," said Muentefering, adding: "We want to govern with Gerhard Schroeder as chancellor."

Earlier, a member of the SPD went strikingly off this message by suggesting Schroeder could be dumped to pave the way for a grand coalition with Merkel's conservatives.

Asked if the Social Democrats (SPD) would set up a government without Schroeder, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit told RBB radio: "Under certain conditions - but these conditions are not yet there."

This is the first time a senior SPD member has speculated on Schroeder's departure.

*sidebar1*In a further development, outgoing German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer announced he would no longer seek any high office either in government or in his own party.

Fischer, who is 57, said it was time for a new generation to take the helm and said he would serve as a regular member of parliament in the coming session.

Talks between Merkel and SPD chairman Franz Muentefering on a possible grand coalition will be held on Thursday in Berlin. Merkel is also due to meet with leader of the smaller Free Democratic Party (FDP), Guido Westerwelle, on the same day.

Aside from a possible grand coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD, the other model being touted in Berlin has been dubbed a 'Jamaica coalition' of Merkel's CDU/CSU, the pro-business FDP and the Greens, so-called because the official colours of the three parties match the Caribbean nation's flag.

DPA

Subject: German news

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