1132Schroeder ready to step down to make way for Merkel
- Oct 3, 2005http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=52&story_id=24174&name=Schroeder+is+ready+to+step+aside+for+Merkel
Schroeder ready to step down to make way for Merkel
3 October 2005
BERLIN - Ending two weeks of post-election deadlock,
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Monday
signalled a willingness to step down to make way for
"a stable government", a move widely seen as paving
the way for a woman to become chancellor for the first
time in German history.
After a key post-election vote in Dresden bolstering
his conservative challenger Angela Merkel on Sunday,
Schroeder said in a television interview that he would
not "stand in the way" of a resolution of the
stalemate created by the indecisive September 18
"This is not about my claims nor about me personally,"
he said in backing off from his election night claim
that he would remain chancellor, come what might.
"It is about the claim of leadership of the Social
Democratic Party of Germany (SPD)," the chancellor
told RTL Television.
"And that is a matter to be decided by the party
leadership," he added.
"I shall accept any decision," he concluded, saying he
did not want to stand in the way of a stable
While Schroeder hinted that he still believed his
Social Democrats should lead a grand coalition,
political analysts were quick to point out that no one
in his party has the charisma or influence to step
into Schroeder's shoes.
Schroeder's remarks, coinciding with festivities
marking the 15th anniversary of German unification,
came amid mounting public pressure for a resolution of
the deadlock and with opinion surveys showing only 18
per cent of Germans agreed with him that he should
stay on as chancellor.
On election night, he had vowed to stay on as
chancellor, bolstered by voter returns showing the SPD
at 34 per cent, just one point behind the CDU/CSU at
35 per cent.
Since then he has proposed a variety of scenarios,
including sharing the chancellorship with Merkel on a
rotating basis. He has also suggested that he would
withdraw his claim to the chancellorship if Merkel
likewise did so.
His final change of heart came after Merkel's
Christian Democrats expanded their lead over Schroeder
by an additional seat in balloting on Sunday in
precincts of Dresden where the September 18 voting had
been postponed owing to the death of a ballot
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) won 37 per cent of
the vote in Dresden while Schroeder's SPD got almost
33 per cent.
The Dresden results mean Angela Merkel's Christian
Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) now has 226 seats in the
German parliament's lower house, the Bundestag,
compared with 222 seats for Schroeder's Social
Democrats, (SPD) which were won by his party when the
regular election was held on September 18.
Voting for about 219,000 people in half of Dresden had
to be postponed because one of the candidates on the
ballot, a far-right member of the National Democratic
Party of Germany (NPD), died before election day. The
NPD was soundly defeated and won just over 2 per cent
Merkel and Schroeder have been forced into holding
talks on forming a grand coalition between their two
parties, the long-time main rivals of German politics.
Analysts were predicting the negotiations could drag
on well into November. Leading economists warned that
such a protracted stalemate could stifle any
rekindling of German economic recovery.
Schroeder's remarks on Monday now dramatically speed
up that process. SPD officials immediately huddled
Monday evening to discuss his statement and to plan a
strategy for this week's talks with the CDU/CSU.
Schroeder's outgoing SPD alliance with the Greens
failed to win a majority, but Merkel's designated
CDU/CSU marriage with the pro- business Free Democrats
also fell short.
Talks between the SPD and the CDU/CSU on a possible
grand coalition will resume Wednesday in Berlin.
Schroeder's remarks capped a day of speeches,
fireworks, street fairs marking the 15th anniversary
of German unification.
German President Horst Koehler, in a Unity Day speech,
noted that the divisions between East and West Germany
have been more stubborn to heal than originally had
been predicted in the heady days when the Berlin Wall
"We are coming to the realisation that some parts of
our nation will always be more disadvantaged than
other regions," he said. "We are coming to the
realisation that not every region can be a model of
prosperity and happiness, even while we strive to
achieve prosperity and happiness for all."
Potsdam was the focus of this year's official
celebrations, which have been held in a different city
each year since the two Germanys were united at the
stroke of midnight on October 3, 1990.
A huge street fair and a spectacular fireworks display
highlighted the Potsdam festivities, which drew
hundreds of thousands.
Stirring speeches and classical music concerts were
the order of the day for dignitaries, meanwhile, as
former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl received the
prestigious Quadriga Award for achievement from former
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Other recipients included Afghanistan's leader Hamid
Karzai, Prince Karim Aga Khan and Tim Berners-Lee,
creator of the World Wide Web.
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