Merkel prepared for tough coalition talks

Germany's conservatives strengthened the hand of their leader Angela Merkel on Tuesday as she prepared for tough coalition talks aimed at breaking a crippling post-election political deadlock.

Members of her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), voted to reappoint her head of their parliamentary group by a 98.6 per cent margin, well above her previous scores.

However, the clock now begins ticking on Merkel, severely weakened by Sunday’s tight election and still seen as vulnerable to a rebellion from within conservative ranks. The vote gave the conservatives a slight edge over Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats, but not enough to make Schroeder concede defeat.

To keep alive her hopes of becoming Germany’s first woman chancellor, Merkel has two options. She must either persuade the SPD to drop its demands that Schroeder continue to run Germany, or get the environmentalist Greens to join her conservatives in an alliance with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP), her preferred partners. Failure to secure the chancellery could prompt CDU barons to turn on Merkel, already blamed for an inept campaign, spelling an end to her as a political force, Reuters reports.

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