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'Confusion of voices'

Richard ConnorAugust 23, 2010

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed public bickering for her coalition government's low approval ratings. Merkel said that a change was needed in the way members of her government behaved.

Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel and her government are suffering in the opinion pollsImage: AP

Chancellor Angela Merkel said that apparent disunity within her ruling center-right coalition was to blame for a dip in voter approval ratings for member parties.

In an interview with the public television station ZDF, Merkel said that her government needed to make tough decisions. However, she said the nature of discussion within the coalition - which has been accused of excessive bickering - was partly responsible for alienating the electorate.

"I think we haven't managed to reach people partly because the confusion of voices and the way we have treated each other have not been what is to be expected of us," Merkel said, adding that the situation needed to be improved.

A ballot paper from the 2009 German election
The coalition parties have lost ground since the election last yearImage: AP

In the interview on Sunday, Merkel said that her government could be particularly satisfied with its record on the economy. The chancellor said she was confident about regaining opinion poll approval as soon as important decisions facing the country had been made, by the end of the year.

Questions to be answered

Merkel said financial stability, health, education for the children of welfare recipients, energy policy and reforms to the military were her government's top priorities.

The chancellor said that she believed that after these decisions were taken, voters would understand that Germany was "better equipped for the future."

In the interview following her vacation in Italy, Merkel reaffirmed her commitment to introducing a tax on nuclear power providers, despite objections from the industry.

Army recruits in training
Merkel is open to a suspension of compulsory military serviceImage: AP

The chancellor also said she was open to a suspension of Germany's compulsory military service. Both issues have been the subject of heated debate within the coalition.

In an opinion poll released last week, the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) moved ahead of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), who along with Bavarian sister party the CSU share power with the liberal Free Democrats FDP.

The SPD had 32 percent support compared to 31 percent for the CDU and CSU in the poll conducted by Germany's Allensbach Institute. The FDP had just six percent.

The result contrasts with the general election in September 2009 when the CDU and CSU won almost 34 percent of the popular vote, and the FDP almost 15 percent, compared with 23 percent for the SPD.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters/dpa/AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold