• 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.

AFP/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'German' hand grenades paraded by Isis in Syria
A screen grab from a jihadist video showing the grenades. Photo: DPA

'German' hand grenades paraded by Isis in Syria

The German military was on Wednesday investigating reports that Bundeswehr hand grenades have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist group after a video appearing to show captured weapons surfaced on the Internet. READ  

North braces for storms and floods
Early signs of flooding at the Hamburg fish market on Wednesday morning.

North braces for storms and floods

The remnants of hurricane Gonzalo have drifted across the Atlantic and are now threatening North German cities with flooding, forecasters warned on Wednesday. READ  

Indian schools drop German teaching
Indian pupils enrolled in German classes prepare for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to their school. Photo: DPA

Indian schools drop German teaching

Thousands of children in India will no longer be taught German after the country's education ministry allowed a contract to lapse. READ  

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt
A passenger plane landing at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt

Three teenage girls from Colorado were arrested by German police at Frankfurt airport after running away from home, reportedly on their way to join Isis in Syria. READ  

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine
Tuesday night's rescue operation Photo: DPA

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine

Six people, including a family and two American tourists, were left dangling 40 metres in the air over the Rhine for hours late on Tuesday after Cologne's cable car came to a halt. READ  

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome
Arjen Robben celebrates the first goal against AS Roma. Photo: DPA

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome

Bayern Munich were elated on Tuesday night after seuring a 7-1 victory against Roma in their group stage Champions League clash. READ  

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast
A preserved World War II U-Boat on the beach near Kiel, Germany. Photo: DPA

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast

A World War II German U-boat and an American merchant vessel it sank in battle have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said on Tuesday. READ  

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

Opinion
Do German unions have too much power?
Lufthansa passengers rush to change their flights at Frankfurt Airport on Monday. Photo: DPA

Do German unions have too much power?

Germany's pilots and train drivers are taking it in turns to bring the country to a standstill with strikes that have cost the economy tens of millions of euros in the last two weeks. Are unions abusing their power or standing up for their rights? READ  

Older workers can have extra days off, court says
Photo: Workers in a German shoe factory. Photo: DPA

Older workers can have extra days off, court says

Older workers in Germany are allowed more time off than younger ones, a court ruled on Tuesday, saying the difference was not discriminatory. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
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

3,488
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd