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IN THE NEWS - Germany Awaits a New Leader, and a New Day

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I'm Doug Johnson with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The major political parties in Germany are working to complete negotiations for a new government. When they finish, Parliament is expected to elect Angela Merkel as the new chancellor. She is a conservative who would be the first woman to lead Germany. Angela Merkel would also be the first leader from the former East Germany.

Her party, the Christian Democratic Union, narrowly won elections last month for the Bundestag, the German parliament. But it did not receive enough votes for a majority. The Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agreed Monday to form a coalition.

The next chancellor will face a national unemployment rate of more than eleven percent. The German economy is the largest in Europe. But economic growth has slowed.

Mister Schroeder said this week that he would not take part in the new government. He has been chancellor since nineteen ninety-eight. Under the coalition agreement, the ministries led by Social Democrats would include the Foreign Ministry. Miz Merkel's party and the allied Christian Social Union would get leadership of the defense and economy ministries, among others.

Political experts say sharing power with her opponents almost surely will limit the ability of Angela Merkel to make changes. For example, she wants to ease laws that protect jobs and help keep labor costs high in Germany. But unions support the protections.

Miz Merkel also says she wants to improve relations with the United States. Mister Schroeder refused to support American plans for the invasion of Iraq in two thousand three. However, Germans do not expect Miz Merkel to want to send troops to Iraq either.

Germany does wants a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The United States has not shown support for that idea.

Angela Merkel is fifty-one years old. She was born Angela Kasner in Hamburg, West Germany. Her father was a Lutheran clergyman. He was sent to lead a small church in East Germany while Angela was a baby. So she grew up under Communist rule.

There, she received a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Leipzig in nineteen eighty-six. Later she did research in East Berlin. She is married to a chemistry professor, Joachim Sauer. They have no children.

She became active in the democracy movement in East Germany in nineteen eighty-nine. She joined the Christian Democratic Union about the time East and West Germany re-united in nineteen ninety. Voters elected her to Parliament the following year.

She soon became minister for women and young people, in the cabinet of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Angela Merkel has chaired the Christian Democratic Union since two thousand. She has led its delegation in Parliament since two thousand two. Her forceful personality often leads to comparisons with the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our reports are online at www.unsv.com. I'm Doug Johnson.

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