Angela Merkel, unlikely political star | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 05.12.2012
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Angela Merkel, unlikely political star

It's Angela Merkel's day - she was just re-elected for the seventh time as head of her party, the Christian Democratic Union. The chancellor is the party's undisputed face, and policy head.

Her entrance into the party conference for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Hanover was businesslike, sober, almost overly cool. Only very seldom did she allow passions to blaze during her one-hour speech. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who for 12 years has been head of the CDU, does not fit the cliché of a superstar.

Rather than doing things like striding majestically through rows of delegates accompanied by music, or having her speeches broken by thunderous outbreaks of applause, Merkel seemed even abashed when the nearly 1,000 party delegates gave her a standing ovation after the speech. She waited patiently during the eight minutes of applause, waving and saluting the crowd with clasped, raised hands.

Undisputed party head

The German chancellor, whom international media sometimes called Europe's most powerful woman, came off as quiet and pensive, dry and nearly bland at the party conference. Despite her apparent lack of typical charisma, she is the undisputed superstar of her party - with whom she will be working throughout the coming election year.

Delegates appreciate her way of conducting politics - Berlin parliamentarian Stefanie Vogelsang thinks Merkel is just great. "One expects in an election perhaps more get-go, more criticism of political opponents. But she doesn't need that. I think it's cool, how she does politics unpretentiously and to the point," Vogelsang said.

A delegate from the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate praised Merkel's issues-oriented speech, through which he sees her as being able to carry the party along into that state's elections next year. It's just fun to have Merkel leading the party and popular politician Julia Klöckner as the Rhineland-Palatinate head, the delegate said happily.

Tailwind for Klöckner and McAllister

Julia Klöckner running her hand through her hair

Julia Klöckner lends momentum to the Rhineland-Palatinate CDU

Julia Klöckner is the rising star of the CDU. Giving interviews and answering questions at the party conference, she came off on-camera as attractive, charming and self-assured. She wants to bring the CDU back into governing her state, and has lent the state party - weakened through elections - renewed vigor. She was even elected as party substitute for Merkel, if need be.

Apart from Klöckner, David McAllister was also gaining the sympathies of party delegates. As governor of Lower Saxony, McAllister - with his Scottish roots - will run in the state election for national parliament. His fighting words at the party conference were received with enthusiasm, while delegates from his state association held up signs saying, "I am Mc."

Merkel's successor?

McAllister und Klöckner, along with Saarland Governor Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer or Thuringia Governor Christine Lieberknecht, or even Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, could all be candidates to become Merkel's successor. But that's not been discussed at the CDU meeting.

Merkel reigns uncontested over the CDU. She is the party's program, the woman in charge, "with a compass of steadfast values in a difficult, stormy sea," as she has described her own role. She banks on continuity. Merkel has promised that she intends to continue the CDU's governing coalition with the Free Democratic Party.

However, she will have to put pressure on the coalition partner in order to survive the elections next September. The "black-gold" coalition, as it's called based on the parties' colors, has been the most successful ruling coalition since Germany's reunification. It is guiding Germany out of the financial crisis, bringing unemployment down to the lowest rate in years. But Merkel continues to warn that Europe's financial crisis is not yet overcome.

Election dreams for 2013

Delegates listening to Merkel's speech at the CDU party meeting

Nearly 1,000 delegates followed Merkel's speech at the conference in Hanover

Indeed, the CDU doesn't give a second thought to granting Merkel further management of the financial crisis - she won an astounding 98 percent of the party vote. And as Merkel approached the podium while her party celebrated, she seemed even a tad happy.

She was bowled over by the results, she said with a wide smile and two large bouquets in her arms. Then she added, suddenly sober and diligent with regard to the upcoming election year: "Nose to the grindstone. We have a lot of work to do."

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