Partisan Evolution

A Conservative in Name, German Chancellor's Moderation Angers Some

The German chancellor's promise to raise the pensions of former East Germans could win her party votes in upcoming elections.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is steadily implementing new laws, including early retirement and a minimum wage, which are desired by her coalition partner but are raising fears within her own party that jobs and economic growth may be at risk.

  • Facts


    • A senior party leader of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats criticized some of the Chancellor’s governments policies
    • He is comparing Ms. Merkel with previous German leaders, such as former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and said she is weaker than he was.
    • Merkel’s government introduced an early retirement scheme and a minimum wage.
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Tied to the wishes of her coalition partner, Ms. Merkel is making herself unpopular in corners of her own party.

On Saturday, another critic raised his voice against what he feared would be an anti-business stance of Ms. Merkel’s coalition government on the controversial issues of fracking and genetic engineering.

Ms. Merkel oversees a broad right-left coalition of her own Christian Democratic Party and Social Democrats.

“We need to start over when it comes to our business policies,” said Michael Fuchs, a senior leader of Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic party in an interview with the German weekly, Der Spiegel. ”For the rest of this term, we have to stop anything that can weaken Germany as a business hub.”

While Ms. Merkel still remains the most popular politician in Germany, with 77 percent of voters approving, according to statistics, recent policy moves have triggered criticism from more conservative and business-oriented members of her party.

On Saturday, a member of the CDU’s leadership in Germany’s Bundestag, raised his voice about the course Ms. Merkel is taking when it comes to fracking and genetic engineering. Mr. Fuchs, who is representing the pro-business wing within Ms. Merkel’s party, wants the Chancellor to take a stronger lead on these issues.

“Fracking may be our only chance to become independent from Russia,” said Mr. Fuchs in an interview with local newspaper, Rheinische Post.

Ms. Merkel is opposing hydraulic fracking in Germany. Currently, German lawmakers are debating the possibility of testing fracking in North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

Ms. Merkel opposes hydraulic fracking, a controversial technique that involves drilling rocks to release natural gas. Currently, German lawmakers are debating the possibility of testing fracking in areas such as North-Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

In addition, Mr. Fuchs is also calling for more progress on genetic engineering. Christian Democrats are too weak these days to impose their “views on a people that are generally skeptical when it comes to technology,” he told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

He compared Ms. Merkel with previous German leaders, such as former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was in power from 1982 to 1998.

“I miss that kind of courage in today’s politics,” he said, “sometimes even from the Chancellor,” said 64-year-old Mr. Fuchs, who is a veteran of the Kohl era and was involved for most of his career in foreign relations and trade.

But experts say, critics like Mr. Fuchs are not a threat to Ms. Merkel. “It is normal that Mr. Fuchs is expressing this criticism. He is voicing the German business sector within the party, trying to change the direction of the coalition’s economic and social policies,” sad Marc Debus, a professor of comparative politics at Mannheim University.

Other areas are also met with resistance in her own ranks. Ms. Merkel is pushing through a pensions bill that would let Germans retire at 63, instead of 65, with the age-barrier gradually increasing with each generation. The bill is something her coalition partner, the Social Democrats, have always wanted. But members of her own party are saying that the draft is not taking into account the aging of the population and low birth rates, as well as periods of unemployment of each individual.

On another matter, Ms. Merkel was negotiating the introduction of the minimum wage – something the Social Democrats have pledged to stand firm on during the previous campaign – which will come into effect in 2015. But conservative members of the Christian Democrats criticized the bill, arguing that any form of minimum wage will be damaging to the overall business performance in Germany, as it may be leading to more unemployment and an increase in freelance jobs.

“We have to admit that we made too many concessions during coalition talks with the Social Democrats,” Mr. Fuchs told Der Spiegel.

This is not the first time that Ms. Merkel has been criticized from within her own ranks. In 2005, when she had just started her first term as chancellor of Germany, she agreed to raise the value-added tax on goods and services to 19 percent from 16 percent. The move was designed to reduce the huge budget deficit.

At the time too, critics within her own party and voters accused Ms. Merkel of betraying her campaign promises.

Criticism within Mrs. Merkel’s party is also a way to strengthen the chancellor’s position against the Social Democrats, Mr. Debus said.

“If one faces criticism from within the party one can use this to improve the negotiation position,” said Mr. Debus.

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