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Bidding the Iron Lady Chancellor auf Wiedersehen

Marc Young · 10 May 2010, 14:56

Published: 10 May 2010 14:56 GMT+02:00

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We can finally put the Maggie Thatcher comparisons to rest.

Angela Merkel might be regularly ranked the world’s most powerful woman, but as of Sunday evening she’s never going to become the Iron Lady Chancellor.

Not only did her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) lose power in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), the defeat has also cost her alliance with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

With Merkel’s government no longer able to ram major legislation through the upper house, which represents Germany’s 16 federal states, her centre-right coalition can now kiss an ambitious legislative agenda goodbye.

But to be fair, it’s not the voters of NRW that have robbed Merkel’s administration of the ability to pursue major reforms – the CDU-FDP coalition did that all on its own from the first day it took office last autumn.

The conservatives and the FDP came to power in October supposedly with a mandate for changes beyond the grasp of Merkel’s last clunky coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). But the new government quickly lurched from a shambolic start to political infighting and paralysis.

From the beginning, the conservatives seemed more intent on defending the status quo than tackling the country’s creaky tax, health and educational systems. And instead of giving the Christian Democrats the backbone to push through difficult changes, the Free Democrats appeared focused on rewarding special interests close to their own party after 11 long years in the opposition.

Even while holding a majority in the Bundesrat, Merkel’s government nearly failed to pass its only major piece of legislation last December due to vehement opposition from several CDU-FDP led state governments. The much derided package of tax cuts and stimulus measures is now likely to remain the coalition’s biggest achievement.

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The conservatives were already fighting to bury the big tax cuts wanted by FDP boss Guido Westerwelle. And the two parties could hardly be further apart on healthcare reform. Perhaps worst of all, Merkel and Westerwelle seemed to dither over the EU bailout for bankrupt Greece, putting the euro unnecessarily at risk.

In fact, the now so lamented loss of the upper house does little to change Germany’s political reality – it simply dispels the reformist illusion surrounding Merkel’s centre-right coalition once and for all.

Of course, consensus-loving Germans never wanted her to pursue a radical Thatcher-like agenda anyway. But at least now they know they have an administrator sitting in the Chancellery rather than wannabe visionary.

Marc Young (marc.young@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:24 May 10, 2010 by Portnoy
Dude, this woman is useless. She's the most powerful woman in the world because the powerful woman club is woefully small.
05:49 May 12, 2010 by vonSchwerin
Dear Guido,

Thank you for ruining our chances of giving the German economy the structural reform it needs. You and your shameless self-promotion, ill-conceived campaign strategies, and unending talk of misguided tax cuts!

Instead of securing my place in history as the woman who turned Germany around and prepared it for voracious economic competition and environmental challenges in the 21st century, I will be regarded as middling chancellor who merely minded the store while we slipped into genteel decay and put off growing problems for another 20 years.

With friendly greetings,


PS: You're fired. Tomorrow I am calling Cem ízdemir to ask him to form a new coalition. It's for the good of the country.
06:04 May 13, 2010 by VelvetHeart67
Ouch! The truth hurts....
13:48 May 16, 2010 by Wiesel
I really hope that now the old communists also called Left-Party won't come to power.
23:10 May 18, 2010 by munchau
We must lend money to our European brothers and sisters and like E Germany be prepared to forgive the loans so we can stop the speculators selling our beloved euro
02:55 May 19, 2010 by blauaugen63
Why lend more money and then forgive the loans??? Let the countries screw the bankers.

It is a game and the only winners are the central bankers.

Kick them our of the EU if they cannot manage their affairs. Why drag down the rest of the members. Better yet everyone go back to their own currrency.
17:03 May 20, 2010 by D_D2008
I agree with blauaugen63. Why stretch yourselves so thin you wind up screwing yourself.
01:26 May 21, 2010 by Zlik
Same ole story "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer". You can bank on that.
13:09 May 21, 2010 by munchau
no we must help out poorer cousins in Southern Europe - I am happy to may more reunification taxes if it means no war
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