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Germany

Foes, Friends Express Doubts about Merkel

On Tuesday, Germany's future chancellor turned to the task of shaping a coalition government amid warnings, even from allies, that she may lack the ability to impose her will on her ministers.

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She's got the job. But can she lead the troops?

Angela Merkel is set to become the first woman chancellor in German history at the head of a power-sharing administration of her Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats, after a deal was struck between the country's two biggest parties.

The coalition's main task will be to revive Europe's biggest economy that is stagnating badly, weighed down by unemployment of more than 11 percent.

But less than a day after her elevation to chancellor, even her conservative allies expressed doubts about her ability to hammer out a coalition and keep control of the resulting administration.

Gerhard Schröder

Could soon be completely out of the picture: Schröder

The cost of winning her duel with Gerhard Schröder, now stepping down as chancellor after seven years, is a cabinet loaded with his Social Democrats, frequently bitterly at odds with her party. The key to the effectiveness of the grand coalition will be Merkel's ability to keep the different opinions in line.

But that was called into question by Edmund Stoiber, who leads the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

Complicated task

"At the end of the day, it could be that the chancellor dictates the policy direction, but in a grand coalition that is only possible in a measured form," Stoiber admitted.

Unlike in a normal coalition of a senior and junior partner, Merkel's task would be complicated because the two partners are of similar size, Stoiber said.

Angela Merkel, CDU

Merkel might not be smiling for long

Some Social Democrats, too, doubted Merkel had the political skills required for such a delicate task. Merkel would be a "weak chancellor," said Michael Müller, a left-wing member of Schröder's party.

"It will be very hard with her, because I don't think she can do it," he said.

The Financial Times Deutschland newspaper said Merkel would be working "in the worst possible conditions" and the Tagesspiegel daily predicted she "will find it hard to govern as she intended."

No euphoria

Many analysts erred on the side of caution, saying Monday's deal had only removed the main obstacle to formal negotiations, which could last until the middle of November, on a coalition.

The lack of euphoria among her own Christian Democrats is because many say she ran a clumsy campaign for the September 18 vote, winning only four seats more than Schröder's party and obliging them to make wide-ranging concessions to secure her nomination as chancellor.

According to the deal, the Social Democrats will take eight ministries, including the powerful portfolios of foreign affairs, finance, labor and justice, as well as health, development, transportation and environment, party sources said.

Parceling out power

The Christian Democrats would have six posts -- economy, which would belong to Stoiber, interior, defense, agriculture, education and family -- and the speaker's chair.

Merkel will not have to deal with Schröder, who is not expected to play a role in the government. His future remains uncertain; some reports say he may go into the private sector.

Economists hope a stable government will take a fresh look at the country's federal system, simplify the tax code and get its public finances in order, although they warn only a watered-down version of Merkel's reform program is likely to survive coalition negotiations.

Wolfgang Schäuble Pressekonferenz in Hamburg

Wolfgang Schäuble, rumored to headed to the Interior Ministry

Wolfgang Schäuble (photo), a confidante of conservative former chancellor Helmut Kohl, is rumored to be in line for a return to the interior ministry where he was in charge from 1989 to 1991. The so-called poisoned chalice of the cabinet, the finance ministry, may go to Peer Steinbrück, the former state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia. The relatively unknown Christian Democrat Norbert Lammert is tipped for the job of parliamentary speaker.

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  • Date 11.10.2005
  • Author DW staff/AFP (jen)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/7IEE
  • Date 11.10.2005
  • Author DW staff/AFP (jen)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/7IEE