New blow for Merkel as another ally quits

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The Independent Online

Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered another setback last night when Hamburg's popular mayor Ole von Beust resigned abruptly, the sixth state leader in her conservative party to abandon ship within the last year.

The charismatic 55-year-old has been a pillar of strength for Merkel and her Christian Democrats (CDU) for the last decade in the left-leaning northern port of Hamburg, one of Germany's 16 federal states.

Opinion polls have tracked a steep erosion in support for her and her centre-right coalition. Many Germans blame Ms Merkel and her government for failing to make tangible progress on badly needed economic and financial reforms as the budget deficit rose to record levels. Squabbling between the CDU and Free Democrats has deepened the woes.

The departure of Mr Von Beust – a close ally who engineered her previous coalition and first CDU-Greens alliance ever in 2008 – further compounds her problems, analysts say, because it extends the party's loss of potentially strong, popular leaders and leaves her more isolated at the top.

In late June, rebels within Ms Merkel's coalition made her endure three rounds of voting before securing the presidency for her candidate in a sign of disenchantment with her leadership. Media said fatigue was the main reason behind Mr Von Beust's departure after nine years running Germany's second largest city.

But with five other CDU state leaders having quit in the last 10 months, columnist C.C. Malzahn wrote in the conservative Welt am Sonntag that Ms Merkel was partially responsible.

"It might not be entirely accurate to blame the Chancellor for all these losses but you have to ask if she did enough to keep her key players on the team – and the answer is: no, she didn't.