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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 16:17 GMT
German right settles election rivalry
Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel is seen as a lacklustre figure
The leader of the German opposition Christian Democrats (CDU), Angela Merkel, has abandoned her bid to challenge Gerhard Schroeder in this year's elections for the chancellorship, allowing Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber to run instead.

"I have always said the chancellor candidate of the conservatives should be the person who has the greatest chance of victory," Ms Merkel told a news conference after a meeting of Christian Democrats in Magdeburg.

Polls suggest that the charismatic Mr Stoiber has the better chance of beating Mr Schroeder in the 22 September election.

He also has a good track record managing Bavaria, whose economy is booming while much of the rest of Germany is close to recession.

Lacklustre

Edmund Stoiber
Stoiber is the right's preferred candidate

Ms Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union, is seen as a lacklustre figure.

Mr Stoiber, leader of the Christian Social Union, is more experienced, and further to the right.

The BBC's correspondent Rob Broomby says Mr Stoiber victory guarantees a more colourful - although perhaps more divisive - campaign.

His party has repeatedly refused government appeals to keep inflammatory issues like immigration out of the election.

Although polls put Mr Stoiber ahead of Ms Merkel, they also suggest that Mr Schroeder remains in the lead overall.

Stoiber favoured

According to the latest poll, published by the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Friday, Mr Schroeder would win 58% of the vote if the position were directly elected, against 39% for Mr Stoiber, and 32% for Ms Merkel.

Among supporters of the centre-right parties, there was a clear preference for Mr Stoiber as candidate for the chancellorship, by 76% to 60%.

Earlier this week, Mr Stoiber, who leads the Christian Social Union, said the two hopefuls would reach an amicable agreement on who would stand.

Otherwise, he indicated, the issue could be decided by MPs in the Bundestag.

Correspondents say MPs are not confident of victory under Mr Stoiber, but that most see him as the best chance they have of holding on to their seats.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Europe
German right in new funding row
03 Dec 01 | Europe
Opposition leader inspires party
20 Mar 00 | Europe
The rise of Angela Merkel
05 Nov 01 | Europe
CDU leader warns party faces ruin
18 Jan 00 | Europe
Kohl's mark on history
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