With the tactical sharpness that has so often frustrated her rivals, German center-right leader Angela Merkel used a party convention in Leipzig on Dec. 2 to take the initiative in the national debate on economic reform. Merkel persuaded delegates of her Christian Democratic Union to back a program that includes steeper tax cuts and more labor market deregulation than is proposed by center-left Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government. Besides stealing the limelight from Schröder, Merkel overshadowed rival and fellow conservative Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian Prime Minister who has hesitated to back drastic changes to the welfare system. Merkel's course is risky, since many Germans also fear reform. But if she can convince them that less government intervention will bring more prosperity, she will solidify her chances to lead the center-right against Schröder in 2006 elections.
Edited by Rose Brady