ANGELA Merkel has been re-elected leader of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) with a record 97.9 per cent of delegate votes.
Germany’s chancellor received an eight-minute ovation at CDU congress after she told delegates theirs was the only party able to steer the country through the “stormy waters” of economic crisis and geopolitical change.
With national approval ratings near 70 per cent, Mrs Merkel, 58, struck a triumphant tone at the party congress in Hanover, repeating that hers was the “most successful government” since German reunification in 1990.
“These are turbulent times and sometimes we find ourselves in stormy waters. But it is the German CDU that has the clear direction to steer our country through these seas,” she said.
Recent polls show her far ahead of Peer Steinbrueck, the main opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for chancellor.
However, they also show a close race between preferred coalition governments of both parties. A 1 December poll for Bild showed the CDU and Bavaria’s CSU on 38 per cent and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) – Mrs Merkel’s coalition partners – on just 4 per cent. In contrast the SPD and Greens were on 28 per cent and 14 per cent, respectively, also giving a total of 42 per cent.
The FDP numbers are worrying for Mrs Merkel, as they are below the 5 per cent needed to get into parliament, but elections are ten months away and with support for the CDU far ahead of the others, Mrs Merkel is in a comfortable position for the 2013 election at the moment, said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University.
The eurozone debt crisis is a potential problem but perhaps not as much of one as it might seem, he added.
“The worse the crisis gets, and with it the effects on German budget and financial policy, if it becomes clear to voters here that there is less money for national matters, that could damage Mrs Merkel,” Mr Neugebauer continued. “Then her credibility would take a knock.”
Mrs Merkel has acknowledged that these are “turbulent times” and that while it may be tempting to say “the euro is saved” there are signs that German growth may slow next year as other eurozone states remain mired in recession.
“I will say here explicitly - we must be careful,” she said. “This crisis cannot be solved overnight because it didn’t happen overnight.”
Germany is the largest contributor to eurozone rescue funds, and Mrs Merkel pledged continued support to member states, saying that “in the long run, Germany only does well when Europe does well”.
“I want to see the euro come out of this crisis stronger than it went into it, and since we’ve already accomplished that in Germany we can also accomplish that in Europe,” she said.
Domestically, she promised more support for families raising children, tax incentives for household energy-saving, and more money for research and development. Mrs Merkel added that Germany needed growth to create more jobs, but not at any price, pledging that her policies would be “economically, ecologically and socially responsible”.