Monday, February 20, 2012

German presidency row shakes Merkel's coalition

(Reuters) - Angela Merkel's conservatives accused their coalition partner on Monday of a "massive breach of trust" in backing opposition candidate Joachim Gauck for the German presidency, a move which forced the chancellor to support him despite deep reservations.

Germany's Bild newspaper said Merkel's centre-right government had even come close to collapsing during tense negotiations on Sunday evening between her and Free Democrat (FDP) leader Philipp Roesler over who should fill the largely ceremonial post.

According to the paper, Merkel warned Roesler that he was putting the coalition at risk by backing Gauck, a former rights activist in East Germany whose candidacy the chancellor publicly opposed less than two years ago.

"Is that what you really want?" the paper quoted Merkel as saying.

Roesler reportedly refused to budge and an hour later Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Christian Social Union (CSU) sister party, caved in and reluctantly agreed to back Gauck, who was nominated by the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens. Read More