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Merkel wants to keep leading party despite slump

world Updated: Jul 02, 2010 23:07 IST
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Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected a suggestion on Friday that she should give up leading her conservative party to focus on her work as head of the German government, even though her popularity has dived.

Merkel, reeling from a rebellion in her coalition, told RTL television that she had no intention of giving up the party leadership as her centre-left predecessor Gerhard Schroeder did when his popularity sank.

"No, not at all," she said when asked if it were not too great a burden being leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and chancellor at a time of record lows in opinion polls."Especially at a time when we're facing such enormous challenges I think it's important that policies are derived from a single source," she said. "As chancellor I can't do all the work alone. That's why I'm happy we've got talented ministers."

Merkel is facing the most serious crisis since she ousted Schroeder in 2005, even though the economy is picking up and unemployment has fallen to two-year lows. Schroeder gave up the party leadership in 2004 in a futile bid to save his government.Opinion polls show support for Merkel and her CDU has fallen steeply this year. She is under pressure to reexamine a budget savings plan after coalition rebels at first refused to back her candidate for president, Christian Wulff, on Wednesday.

Dozens of centre-right delegates to the Federal Assembly twice voted against Wulff and obeyed only in the third round after Merkel made a personal plea for unity.

This humiliation was the latest setback for Merkel, leaving her coalition weakened and raising speculation about whether she can last until the end of her term in 2013.

A poll on Friday found that only one in five Germans think Merkel has a firm grip on her government.

Merkel brushed off suggestions that her government was in trouble or that the presidential vote was a slap in the face."It's certainly a challenge to solve the problems that we have to resolve," she said. "But it's often forgotten how large the problems are that we have to master. I see it as a call for us to get back to work and concentrate on the tasks at hand."

She said that what was important with Wulff was the final result -- not the defeats in the first two of three rounds. "At the end of the day we had a very convincing result," she said.