• Germany edition
Merkel seeks to rally her conservatives for vote
Photo: DPA

Merkel seeks to rally her conservatives for vote

Published: 03 Dec 2012 07:19 GMT+01:00
Updated: 03 Dec 2012 07:19 GMT+01:00

With general elections looming in less than a year, Merkel will address the rank-and-file of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at its annual two-day gathering in the northern city of Hannover starting on Tuesday.

Even after seven years at the helm of Europe's top economy, the 58-year-old enjoys a level of domestic popularity unseen by any post-war leader before her despite heading a fractious centre-right coalition.

During Europe's economic woes, she has become the 'go-to' leader -- named by Forbes magazine as the world's most powerful woman for six out of the last seven years -- but has also been maligned for her pro-austerity mantra on the streets of crisis-ravaged eurozone nations.

She is expected to be easily re-elected head of the party she has led since 2000 at the congress.

Merkel recently set the campaign tone boasting hers was the "most successful government since reunification" in 1990, as Germany weathers Europe's protracted crisis better than many of its neighbours.

In an interview with Sunday's Bild newspaper, Merkel said Germans were

better off today than three years ago but much still had to be done.

"Fortunately we have more people in work than ever and clearly fewer unemployed than before my time in office -- that's not only, but also, to do with clever politics," she said.

However, she may now face choppier waters amid signs that Germany is beginning to feel the pinch with slowing growth in the third quarter and rising unemployment in November.

Germans tend not to vote primarily for personalities but the CDU will focus its battle for re-election on the current chancellor, political scientist Gero Neugebauer of Berlin's Free University said.

Her party, he noted however, is also in a "favourable position". "It has the so-called strategic ability to form a majority, that means no government can be formed against it or without it," he told reporters.

Despite dwindling public appetite for stumping up more cash for struggling eurozone countries, Merkel has repeatedly won parliament's backing for crisis-fighting measures over the past three years.

Germany's two main opposition parties again supported the government on Friday in approving Athens' latest multi-billion euro rescue aid amid headlines such as "The Never Ending Story" in mass circulation Bild daily.

But if the crisis drags on, Merkel's credibility could be hit, Neugebauer said.

"The worse the crisis gets and thus the worse the effect on German budgetary and fiscal policy and it also becomes clear to the voters that less money is available for national projects -- that can harm Mrs Merkel," he said.

Raised in former East Germany and the daughter of a Protestant preacher, Merkel rose through the CDU ranks as an outsider in a party of mainly Roman Catholic family men from the wealthy southwest.

She has shaken up the party with a change in direction on education and family policy, support for a form of minimum wage, as well as scrapping conscription and phasing out nuclear energy, Neugebauer added.

"She has taken away a part of its conservative identity by conducting a modernisation policy," he commented.

Merkel told Bild she anticipated a "good, respectful" discussion on the tax treatment of gay couples in Hannover.

She said that she did not favour putting gay couples on the same tax footing as heterosexual ones because the constitution "sees marriage directly linked to the family and both are under the special protection of the state".

Another problem on the horizon is the plunging fortunes of Merkel's current coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, who, surveys suggest, will struggle to cross the five-percent threshold to enter parliament.

Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, lead the main opposition Social Democrats by 11 points, according to a poll for Stern magazine and RTL television last week.

Her main rival, Peer Steinbrück, 65, of the SPD, a former finance minister in a 2005 to 2009 "grand coalition" with the CDU, has been embroiled in a nagging fees-for-lectures debate since launching his campaign in September.

All eyes will be on a regional vote in Lower Saxony in January as an indicator of voter sentiment.

Since the 2009 federal elections, the CDU has suffered a number of stinging losses regionally.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germanwings' pilots to strike on Friday
Photo: DPA

Germanwings' pilots to strike on Friday

UPDATE: Pilots at Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings are set to strike on Friday, after talks between management and a union broke down on Thursday. READ  

Germany posts weaker job figures
Photo: DPA

Germany posts weaker job figures

Unemployment in Germany remained steady in August, official data showed on Thursday, as clouds continue to build over Europe's biggest economy and the eurozone as a whole. READ  

Police suspect arson in Berlin mosque fire
The facade of the Mevlana mosque was badly damaged by smoke from the fire. Photo: DPA

Police suspect arson in Berlin mosque fire

UPDATE: Investigators now believe a fire which damaged a mosque in Berlin earlier in August was started deliberately. READ  

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa
The Haus am Bogensee. Photo: DPA

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa

After two failed attempts, Berlin is trying again to sell the sprawling estate and villa once known as Joseph Goebbels' illicit love nest, but so far, nobody's buying. READ  

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis
Cem Özdemir empties a bucket of water over his head next to a cannabis plant. Photo: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis

What looked like just another ALS ice bucket challenge video has become a political statement after the leader of Germany's Green Party Cem Özdemir confirmed he filmed his clip next to a cannabis plant. READ  

What's next for East Berlin?
Photo: Gehry Partners LLP/Timo Hermann - bbz landschaftsarchitekten/DPA/Living Bauhaus/DPA

What's next for East Berlin?

In the second of a two-part series on Berlin’s future, The Local looks at the major developments in former East Berlin. From palaces to bridges, what’s next for the East? READ  

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq
A transport plane which carried German aid in Erbil. Photo: DPA

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq

Germany has sent six soldiers to northern Iraq to coordinate deliveries of aid and military equipment to Kurds fighting Islamist terror group Isis. READ  

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million
Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most luxurious addresses in the city. Photo: DPA

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million

A Berlin property firm has set a city-wide record for the most expensive apartment sold, closing a deal for €5.7 million on a centrally-located penthouse. READ  

Uber pushes expansion despite legal pitfalls
Uber is going head-to-head with taxi services across Germany. Photo: DPA

Uber pushes expansion despite legal pitfalls

Chauffeur car service Uber plans to expand into more German cities and double its activity in the country by the end of the year in the face of bitter opposition and a court case. READ  

Germany to lock out 'cheating' EU migrants
Demonstrators hold up a banner against Roma deportations in 2013. Photo: DPA

Germany to lock out 'cheating' EU migrants

UPDATE: Germany on Wednesday announced new measures to stop EU citizens from abusing its social welfare system, reacting to what some politicians have labelled "poverty migration". READ  

Photo: Shutterstock
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: DPA
Size does matter in this case, rules judge
Photo: Matthias Kock
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd