Merkel 'quite certain' government will survive

21st July 2010, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, facing a free fall in the polls and an exodus of top conservatives, said Wednesday she was confident that her government would see out its four-year term.

Asked at her annual pre-holiday summer news conference whether her squabbling centre-right coalition would make it to 2013, the 56-year-old Merkel replied: "I am quite certain."

The chancellor acknowledged that she had been unable to corral her ministers as they descended into name-calling in recent months while arguing over tax policy, healthcare reform and the future of nuclear energy.

"Voters have not been happy at all with some of the types of debates we have had," she said.

"Certain ways of speaking with each other were not acceptable and we need to work on that," she said, referring to members of her cabinet reportedly trading insults such as "wild sow" and "Rumpelstiltskin".

Merkel was elected to a second term in September with a majority that allowed her to dump her previous "grand coalition" with the rival Social Democrats in favour of a tie-up with her partner of choice, the pro-business Free Democrats.

She turned philosophical on the reasons why her administration has not appeared to be a match made in heaven.

"We needed time to find our feet in government," she said.

"We had said for years that this was the coalition we wanted and as it sometimes is in life, the reality has been a bit bumpier than expected."

But she pledged to turn the ship around in the remainder of the term.

"I am looking ahead and you can expect us to govern well during this legislative period," she said.

A poll released Wednesday by the independent Forsa institute showed that Merkel's coalition only mustered 34-percent support, versus 47 percent for the Social Democrats and their frequent partners, the Green party.

Forsa said it was the worst score for the centre-right camp since it started conducting the survey in 1986.

A separate Forsa poll showed that only 64 percent of those who had voted for Merkel's Christian Union bloc in September would do so again today.

After Merkel's press conference, Greens leaders Renate Kuenast and Juergen Trittin fired off a statement condemning nine months of "government chaos everywhere you look".

"They have no convincing programme and no common idea how this country should be led," they said.

Beyond the infighting, Merkel has seen six conservative state leaders leave office in the last 10 months for various reasons, in addition to the abrupt resignation of president Horst Koehler in May over a gaffe in an interview.

The chancellor nevertheless defended her economic stewardship as Germany emerges from its deepest recession since World War II, saying that the country was setting an example for fiscal prudence across Europe and around the world.

"Each country needs to find its own rhythm," she said.

She said Germany's hard line on slashing debt in the eurozone had earned it respect and called it a "small miracle" that the German jobless rate was lower now at 7.5 percent than before the economic crisis, when it was 10 percent.

Merkel also defended herself against frequent criticism, not least from Washington, that Germany was not doing enough to stimulate domestic consumption and relying instead on its exports' success to steer it out of its slump.

The chancellor argued that German consumers tend not to boost spending when their government's finances are going ever deeper into the red, defending an 80-billion-euro (102-billion-dollar) austerity drive to 2014.

© 2010 AFP

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