Under-fire Merkel pledges action to kick-start second term

29th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Embattled German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised "an autumn of decisions" Wednesday as she sought to inject life into her bumpy second term at the helm of Europe's top economy.

Dubbed the "world's most powerful woman", the 56-year-old Merkel has endured a torrid year since winning re-election, with her poll ratings slipping as her coalition government squabbles over policies ranging from nuclear power to tax.

But she came out fighting in an interview with the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, saying: "We were elected to act. And we are doing that in this autumn of decisions."

In recent weeks, Merkel has extended the life of Germany's nuclear power plants, launched reform of the country's controversial unemployment benefits and health system as well as preparing the ground for scrapping conscription.

However, the nuclear power decision in particular has proved divisive, with tens of thousands flooding Berlin's streets in protest this month.

"Whoever tackles so many important things as we have should not be surprised if there is controversy and opposition," Merkel said.

Meanwhile, a new poll offered some crumbs of comfort to the chancellor, as her conservative Christian Union gained one percentage point to 30 percent.

Her coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats remained mired at five percent, however, with the opposition Social Democrats at 25 percent and the Greens at 23 percent.

The survey, conducted by Forsa, polled 2,500 German voters between September 20 and 24.

© 2010 AFP

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