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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Merkel in control despite allies' Greek cacophony

The chancellor still appears in control of the delicate balancing act she has performed for two years: to help struggling countries that accept tough budget cuts and reforms while convincing Germans she is defending their interests — and wallets.

Manfred Guellner, head of the Forsa polling agency, said that "people appreciate Merkel and in the end go along with her course" in hopes that the economic problems gripping much of Europe won't affect their lives.

The three-year-old coalition of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, its Bavarian sister, the Christian Social Union, and the pro-market Free Democrats has squabbled endlessly and inconclusively over issues as diverse as tax cuts, privacy laws and highway tolls.

Raising questions over Greece's future in the euro offers hopes of political gain to some in Germany's two junior coalition parties, which both face domestic political challenges, though Guellner cautioned that "no party in Germany has ever been able to score points with the euro and the issue of Europe."

The Free Democrats won nearly 15 percent of the vote in Germany's 2009 election, but have slumped to around the 5 percent needed to win seats in Parliament — a contrast with the solid ratings of Merkel's CDU, which consistently leads polls.

Just a day after Merkel asserted, while standing next to Greece's prime minister, that she wants Greece to stay in the eurozone and that others in the coalition do as well, CSU general secretary Alexander Dobrindt was quoted as telling the mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper that "there is no way past a Greek exit from the Eurozone."