Senior members of Germany’s conservative opposition have expressed the suspicion that there was an inner-party plot underway seeking to oust the party leader Angela Merkel after a series of political mishaps last week.
CDU leader Angela Merkel says she's ready to keep fighting
Angela Merkel’s standing within the party has been severely tarnished following a week marred by an ugly rift with the Bavarian CSU sister party over health care reform, by her sudden about face on plans for a populist campaign against Turkey’s EU bid, and by the abrupt resignation of a key ally in the CDU leadership.
Leading German newspapers on Monday already saw Merkel’s power fading, four years after she took over the reigns of the CDU amidst a huge scandal over conservative slush funds.
But the CDU’s state premier in Thuringia, Dieter Althaus (photo), said he believes there’s a plot afoot and it being engineered by some powerful West German party barons seeking to unseat Merkel, who is from eastern Germany.
"There has been too much bad news coming Merkel’s way in the past few weeks," Althaus said. "First she was denounced as too soft a leader by members of our own CSU sister party. Then Friedrich Merz – a key conservative figure – resigned for no apparent reason, and lastly there's the simmering row with the CSU over health care. I cannot believe that all this has happened by accident."
Eckehardt Rehberg, a regional CDU leader and one of Merkel’s allies was even more outspoken.
"What has happened to Angela Merkel in recent weeks and months bears strong the hallmarks of a conspiracy," he said. "If the CDU is to regain strength we must quickly resolve the issue of who is to run for the chancellorship in 2006. In my view this can only be Angela Merkel.“
But Merkel has to fight off at least three powerful male contenders in the race for the conservative candidacy and who are rumored to be behind Merkel’s internal troubles. Among them is CSU leader and Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber (photo), who lost only narrowly to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the last general election two years ago. Political scientist Volker Franke said Angela Merkel is at a disadvantage compared to her rivals.
"Angela Merkel has neither a solid power base within the CDU nor does she have she strong, loyal allies who will stick by her," he said. "Quite the contrary, there is a pack of wolves at her door just waiting for her to make mistakes."
Apparently Merkel’s inner-party foes believe their time has come: They are accusing the CDU leader of bungled strategies and weak leadership.
But in spite of a 10 percent drop in popular support, Merkel remains calm and composed. She is convinced she still has her finger on the pulse of German politics, as she told a newsmagazine on Monday, and that she will be able to rally the party behind her.