• Germany edition
 
Merkel lonely at top as another ally departs
Photo: DPA

Merkel lonely at top as another ally departs

Published: 19 Jul 2010 12:02 GMT+02:00
Updated: 19 Jul 2010 13:56 GMT+02:00

Ole von Beust, leader of Germany's second-largest city, which is also one of 16 regional states, announced he was quitting in August for personal reasons with another three years to go in his term.

He is the sixth conservative state premier to leave his post in 10 months, and follows the shock resignation of President Horst Köhler in May over remarks linking Germany's Afghanistan mission to national economic interests.

In a joint statement to reporters, Merkel thanked von Beust for his service while he insisted he was leaving "bearing no grudge". But the two took no questions at what was announced as a press conference.

A political moderate, Beust was a valuable asset to Merkel, with a proven ability to draw urban voters to her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in a traditionally left-wing city.

Merkel, Forbes magazine's most powerful woman in the world four years running, had already been facing serious questions about her leadership due to sinking poll numbers and incessant back-biting in her centre-right government.

Veteran CDU deputy Wolfgang Bosbach said the rash of departures, albeit for various political reasons, "created the impression of a process of erosion," in remarks published by the website of the Handelsblatt business daily.

The leader of the opposition Greens' parliamentary group, Jürgen Trittin, crowed: "Everyone has been driven to despair by Angela Merkel."

The German press said the air was getting thinner for her.

"Angela Merkel has lost a long-time friend, someone whose advice she trusted, whom she listened to, someone with political heft," the mass-selling daily Bild said. "Governing won't get any easier for her."

The centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said many of the state leaders who had walked away had done so because of a sense of disillusionment with Merkel and pessimism about the party's prospects.

"This is also a blow for Merkel and the federal CDU," it said of Beust's resignation. "We are left with a chancellor who is losing her men, and the question of why more and more politicians are fleeing politics."

According to two polls released last week, only 31 to 33 percent of voters support the CDU and just five to six percent back the pro-business Free Democrats, Merkel's coalition partners in Berlin since she won a second term last September.

The opposition Social Democrats have gained ground to between 30 and 32 percent, now running neck-and-neck with the conservatives.

Beust, 55, was a centrist like Merkel who became the first conservative state premier to openly acknowledge his homosexuality, albeit after being "outed" by a rival.

He had led the city-state since 2001 after a bitterly fought election days after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, which were planned and carried out in part by an Al-Qaeda cell based in Hamburg.

In 2008 he formed with Merkel's approval the country's first alliance between the CDU and the ecologist Greens party - an intriguing tie-up that analysts say could serve as a model one day on the national level.

But Hamburg, the richest city in Germany, has run into trouble with its public finances of late - most recently seen in the runaway costs of a spectacular symphony hall whose construction is under way. And Sunday, he saw one of the centrepieces of his political programme - a reform of the city's school system - defeated in a referendum.

Merkel's biographer Gerd Langguth noted that the one advantage to the 56-year-old chancellor of the growing dearth in seasoned CDU personnel was that she had fewer potential challengers.

"And partly because of that, Merkel is still firmly in the saddle," he said.

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

01:51 July 21, 2010 by hillelmoses
What the latest polls show, as well as the disarray within the governing coalition, is that Merkel made the biggest mistake of her political life in not renewing the united coalition with the Social Democrats. The other article in the Local mentions that the FDP doesn't like the shape of the austerity package. This is what might break the whole coalition and lead to the fall of Merkel.
Today's headlines
Hamburg could take infected Ebola doctor
Liberian health workers in protective clothing bury an Ebola victim in early July. Photo: DPA

Hamburg could take infected Ebola doctor

A World Health Organisation doctor infected with the deadly Ebola virus while trying to help stop it spreading through West Africa could travel to a Hamburg clinic for treatment. READ  

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya
Black smoke billowing from a storage depot of fuel that was hit by a rocket the night before near the airport in Tripoli on July 28th. Photo: EPA/SABRI ELMHEDWI

Germany evacuates embassy in Libya

UPDATE: Germany pulled its embassy staff out of Tripoli on Monday, a day after advising all its citizens currently in Libya to leave the strife-torn country immediately. READ  

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot
Photo: DPA

Police kill fleeing drug dealer with bad shot

A policeman is being investigated for manslaughter after he shot a fleeing man, wanted on drug charges, in the back of the head. The officer claimed he had aimed for his legs. READ  

Germany's students fail to graduate in time
A German student protests against the Bologna reforms in Mainz in 2010. Photo: DPA

Germany's students fail to graduate in time

Leaked figures show the average student in Germany still takes around four years to complete a bachelor's degree, suggesting controversial reforms to higher education have so far failed to cut down the number of Germany's perpetual students. READ  

Lawmakers earn millions on the side
Bavarian lawmaker Peter Gauweiler made almost €1 million on the side. Photo: DPA

Lawmakers earn millions on the side

A quarter of all politicians in the German Parliament are making additional income on top of their parliamentary salary, a transparency group said on Saturday. Thirteen lawmakers have made more than €100,000 in the last few months. READ  

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video
Schweinsteiger has apologized after the video of him on holiday was posted on YouTube. Photo: DPA

Schweinsteiger sorry for holiday video

UPDATE: Germany’s World Cup winning star Bastian Schweinsteiger has apologized after a video emerged of him on YouTube leading a chant insulting Borussia Dortmund supporters and players. READ  

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle
Konrad Fischer with his find. Photo: DPA

Sale stopped of oldest message in a bottle

UPDATE: A fisherman who found the world's oldest message in a bottle tossed into the sea in northern Germany has failed in his attempt to sell it on eBay. The auction was stopped at the last minute. READ  

JobTalk Germany
Job seekers frustrated with application wait
Photo: DPA

Job seekers frustrated with application wait

A new YouGov survey shows job seekers in Germany are exasperated with the application process, complaining about poor job adverts and slow responses. Recruiters agree. READ  

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam
Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann said there was no room for such comments in Bild publications but stopped short of an apology. Photo: DPA

Germany's biggest tabloid attacks Islam

Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, was forced to climb down over the weekend after a highly critical and controversial comment piece which attacked Islam as a barrier to integration appeared in its Sunday sister paper. READ  

Weather warning for stormy Berlin
Photo: DPA

Weather warning for stormy Berlin

Forecasters have put out a weather warning for Berlin and much of Brandenburg with thunderstorms and heavy rain set to bring an end to the heatwave. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825
Culture
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Photo: DPA
Society
This man wants to give all of us €12,000 a year
Photo: DPA
Education
Top university switches master's courses to English
instagram.com/gotzemario
Gallery
Germany's World Cup stars share their holiday photos
Travel
Plans unveiled for bike trail along former Iron Curtain
Photo: DPA
Sport
Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Photo: DPA
National
Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The Local List: 12 best words in German
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,219
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd