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World leaders pay tribute to Merkel's election win

world Updated: Sep 28, 2009 21:05 IST

US President Barack Obama was among the first to call to congratulate German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her victory in the general election. Similar messages continued to flow into Berlin from Germany's European neighbours and more distant allies Monday.

Merkel secured victory on Sunday at the head of a new centre-right coalition that pairs her Christian Democrats (CDU) with the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) as junior partner. The FDP replaces her Social Democratic Party (SPD) partner of the past four years.

Obama and Merkel "agreed that with the election of a strong German government, our cooperation will further strengthen and deepen", a White House statement said. French President Nicolas Sarkozy also called to wish Merkel "success with the important task with which Germans have entrusted her for a second time".

The French leader said he looked forward to working with her on global and regional issues, such as climate change and the economic crisis.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown also sent congratulations and said he was anticipating a continuance of their "close working relationship".

Conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt of Sweden, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, heaped praise on Merkel.

Describing the German leader as "one of Europe's brightest-shining stars", Reinfeldt expressed relief that the CDU had now parted ways with the SPD, calling the grand coalition that had governed Germany since 2005 a "marriage of convenience". "The German people have dissolved a marriage of convenience and Angela Merkel can return to her plans from 2005 to form a non-socialist government with the liberals," Reinfeldt said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that Merkel's victory represented "success not only for Germany but for the entire family" of European centre-right parties.

Both Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party and Merkel's CDU belong to the European People's Party.
Spanish commentators Monday attributed Merkel's victory largely to her centrist policies.

Winning the election was a "splendid success" for Germany's first female chancellor, the daily El Pais said in an editorial, attributing it to Merkel's "talent and capacity to place herself" in the political centre.

However negative notes on Merkel's win also sounded in Europe.

The CDU's win was bittersweet, said an editorial in the Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's biggest daily, as turnout had fallen to a record low of 71 per cent.

"It was the fault of a passive and colourless campaign in which the chancellor avoided attacking opponents, and her platform didn't differ much from the rival," the daily wrote.

In Turkey, media commentators greeted the news without enthusiasm, expecting renewed obstacles in the country's quest for European Union membership.

Merkel, although less vehement than Sarkozy, has said she does not support full membership for Turkey in the 27-member European bloc.

"The opposition to Turkey has won in Germany," the daily newspaper Milliyet declared, adding it was now to be expected that rhetoric against Turkish entry would increase.

Observers in Ukraine also paid attention to the likely accession of FDP leader Guido Westerwelle to the position of German foreign minister.

"The Liberal programme says in part 'West-Balkan countries have a medium- or long-term chance of becoming members of the EU.' Ukraine is in the long-term category," the Ukrainska Pravda website said.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, where Germany has up to 4,500 troops stationed as part of the NATO-led mission, said that he hoped the "historic and friendly relations" between Germany and his country would continue.