Merkel tries to head off internal power struggle

24th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

24 October 2005, BERLIN - German Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel is facing her first major political test as she battles to head off a potentially damaging power struggle in the ranks of her conservative political bloc.

24 October 2005

BERLIN - German Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel is facing her first major political test as she battles to head off a potentially damaging power struggle in the ranks of her conservative political bloc.

Triggered by a push by a leading member of her Christian Democrat- Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) camp for a greater role in Germany's new government, the fight comes as her party gears up for a new round of talks Monday within the Social Democrats (SPD) to forge a "grand coalition" to rule Europe's biggest economy.

The state of Germany's public finances, including tackling high debt and fiscal consolidation are the key issues on the agenda for Monday's talks between the SPD and CDU-CSU on the new power-sharing arrangement between the parties.

Merkel said Monday she would rule in the next two days on the battle which has been boiling away since last week after Edmund Stoiber, the leader of the Bavaria's arch-conservative CSU, launched a bid to significantly beef up what is expected to be his economics portfolio in the new government.

In an interview with the daily Bild, Merkel said that once the decision on the ministries was made "everyone will have to adhere to the arrangements".

The 64-year-old Stoiber, who narrowly lost the 2002 election to SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and has already taken a leading role in the talks to form the new government, wants to bolster the economics ministry by grabbing responsibilities from the finance portfolios as well as the education and finance ministries.

On Monday, a key Merkel aide, Wolfgang Bosbach, hit out about Stoiber calling on him to show restraint in the debate over the shape of its future department.

Bosbach told German radio he understands that Stoiber considers that what he says is correct, but he went on to say that every internal party argument should be held before cameras.

Adding to the pressure on Merkel, 51, has been a fresh outbreak of calls from within the CDU for the party to launch a debate into her political bloc's poor performance in last month's national election which forced the CDU-CSU into coalition talks with the SPD.

After entering the election campaign with a commanding lead over Schroeder's SPD, Merkel's CDU-CSU alliance only managed to scrap together 35.2 per cent, which meant the conservatives were unable to build enough support for a parliamentary majority.

Speaking on the weekend, Stoiber also lashed out at the Merkel-led election campaign saying the conservatives lost because they gave only scant attention to family issues, debt reduction and generation questions.

Last week Stoiber overruled one of Merkel's preferred candidates for a cabinet post and insisted on the appointment of another leading figure from the CSU to her new government.

In a bid to dampen the tensions unleashed by Stoiber, CDU members rallied around Merkel on Monday, saying that the conservatives needed to focus on the talks for forming a new coalition government.

"The party executive has clearly decided not to now launch a debate over the election analysis," CDU general secretary Volker Kauder told German public television ZDF Monday.

"The people do not now want to hear from us why the election campaign went this way or that but they want to hear from us what type of government it will be," said Kauder.

DPA

Subject: German news

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