Angela Merkel Pushes for Unity after Election Rebuke
Pommereau, Isabelle de, The Christian Science Monitor
The divides in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition over issues such as austerity budgets and nuclear energy were exposed in a drawn-out election for the largely ceremonial office of president.
Germany's election Wednesday of Christian Wulff, the youngest president in its history, and a backer of Chancellor Angela Merkel, should have been a formality given Ms. Merkel's comfortable majority in parliament. Instead it turned into a big slap in the face at a time when her popularity is at all-time low.
Triggered by the unexpected resignation of Horst Kohler, the election by a special parliamentary commission of the young conservative had to go into a rare third round of voting. The election is the most blatant manifestation of the political turmoil within Merkel's coalition and comes as a debt-ridden Europe searches for leadership from its largest economy.
"The vote shows that this coalition has huge problems," says Heinrich Oberreuter, a political analyst at Passau University. "It could be a wake up call for her to design strategies to regain people's trust. This is vital."
Annette Schavan, education minister for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, told public radio: "We would have wished for a clearer result on the day, but now it is about looking forward." And she also mad a plea for unity: "Playing as a team is the best way to play."
Since Merkel was reelected last year, rifts have paralyzed her center-right coalition. Issues ranging from lowering taxes to getting out of nuclear energy to reforming health care - not to mention how much of an austerity package the country can stomach - have been left unresolved. Her decision to back a eurozone rescue package for embattled Greece was unpopular in a country that has had to shoulder the cost of German reunification.
Merkel paid a heavy political price for that decision, losing key regional elections in North Rhine Westphalia. The resignation of one of her key allies, the conservative premier of Hessen, Roland Koch, followed by that of Horst Kohler, who resigned after controversial comments made on a trip to Afghanistan, heightened the sense of a government adrift.
"In the context of this massive crisis, the elections turned into a vote of confidence for Merkel," says Mr. Oberreuter. Support for Merkel's Christian Democrats and neo-liberals have fallen to 36 percent, according to a poll taken Tuesday.
German presidents are considered moral rather than political authorities, giving the country direction with their …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Angela Merkel Pushes for Unity after Election Rebuke. Contributors: Pommereau, Isabelle de - Author. Newspaper title: The Christian Science Monitor. Publication date: July 1, 2010. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Christian Science Publishing Society. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.