Schroeder 2006 challenger likely to be Merkel

26th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

26 July 2004, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's conservative challenger in 2006 German elections has not been decided, but an interview Monday indicated the path may now be clear for Christian Democratic leader Angela Merkel.

26 July 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's conservative challenger in 2006 German elections has not been decided, but an interview Monday indicated the path may now be clear for Christian Democratic leader Angela Merkel.

Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber, who was narrowly defeated by Schroeder in 2002, for the first time hinted he would not block Merkel if she wanted to be the candidate.

"Ladies first is simply good manners," said Stoiber in an interview with the political magazine Cicero. He did not elaborate.

A final decision on the Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) candidate is expected by early 2006 at the latest.

Stoiber's view will be crucial because he heads the CSU, which is the CDU's separate Bavarian wing. Traditionally the CDU/CSU put up one candidate.

Chancellor Schroeder, whose Social Democrats (SPD) have plunged to record opinion poll lows after three years of economic stagnation, says he will seek re-election in tandem with the Greens which serve as his junior coalition partner.

A Merkel candidacy would be a political landmark for Germany given the country has never had a woman as a leader or even as a candidate for the chancellery.

Merkel, who is 50, was a university lecturer in physics in former communist East Germany and had close ties to the Protestant Church which served as a focal point for opposition to the hardline regime.

Spotted by then chancellor Helmut Kohl - who brokered the 1990 German unification - Merkel was promoted to cabinet minister and swiftly climbed up the CDU party hierarchy.

She was elected CDU leader in 2000 after both Kohl and his successor, Wolfgang Schaeuble, stumbled over the party's massive slush fund affair.

DPA

Subject: German news

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