GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA Merkel launched her bid for re-election today, telling party faithful her government has successfully steered Germany through the worst of the European financial crisis and is best equipped to guide it through what may still be tough times ahead.
Speaking at her Christian Democratic Union’s party congress in Hannover, she noted that unemployment in Germany is down, the economy is still growing while others in Europe are stagnating or shrinking, and that the deficit has been reduced.
“We have guided Germany out of the crisis stronger than Germany entered the crisis,” she said to a cheering audience.
In a nod to her struggling coalition Free Democratic Party partners, she said “in these times no coalition could lead our country better.”
Party members gave Merkel’s record a resounding endorsement after her speech, re-electing her as the CDU leader with a landslide majority of 98 per cent of the vote. Merkel has led the party since 2000 and has governed Europe’s biggest economy as the country’s first female chancellor since 2005.
Nationally, recent polls show Merkel’s personally far more popular than Peer Steinbrueck, the main opposition Social Democratic Party’s candidate for chancellor.
But they also indicate a tight race between the preferred coalition governments of both parties. A 1 December poll for Bild newspaper showed Merkel’s CDU and Bavarian-only sister CSU with 38 per cent support and the FDP with 4 per cent — for 42 per cent total — versus 28 per cent support for the SPD and 14 per cent for the Greens — also 42 per cent.
The FDP numbers are worrisome, as they’re below the 5 per cent needed to get into Parliament, but elections are 10 months away and with support for Merkel’s own party far above the others, the chancellor is in a comfortable position for the 2013 election at the moment, said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University.
Eurozone debt crisis
The eurozone debt crisis is a potential problem — but perhaps not as much of one as it might seem, he said.
Germany is the largest contributor to eurozone rescue funds, and Merkel pledged continued support to other countries, saying that “in the long run, Germany only does well when Europe does well.”
Domestically, she promised more support for families raising children, tax incentives for people undertaking energy-saving renovations for their homes, and more money for research and development.