After a remarkably smooth first 100 days in office, German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a potentially rocky few months that will test the solidity of her coalition. Since she succeeded Gerhard Schroeder in November, Merkel has won round many doubters and a poll last weekend suggested 74 percent of Germans see her as a strong leader.
She has rejected criticism that she has neglected domestic problems for the foreign stage, saying “One can’t do the work of four years in 100 days.” Merkel has forged a new friendship with Britain’s Tony Blair, and has been less pally with Russian President Vladimir Putin, raising the issues of the Chechnya conflict and democracy. She has also developed warmer ties with Washington. However, some German politicians claim reports that German agents informed the US of Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad defence plan are a smear prompted by Merkel’s criticism of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp. At home, the first challenge for Merkel is state elections on March 26.In recent weeks there have been positive economic signs including a surge in the closely-watched Ifo business climate index, but unemployment has just passed the five-million mark. The government could struggle to implement its healthcare and labour market reforms.