Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Germans happy with Merkel's start

By Ray Furlong
BBC News, Berlin

Angela Merkel
Consumer confidence under Merkel is at its highest in years

The new German government is marking 100 days in office, with opinion polls showing that Angela Merkel is the country's most popular chancellor ever.

Indexes of business and consumer sentiment are also at their highest level for years despite unemployed figures remaining over five million.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader became Germany's first woman chancellor in September last year.

Critics say she is yet to make some hard decisions.

However, one opinion poll showed 80% of Germans think Mrs Merkel is doing a good job as chancellor.

This for a leader who scraped into office with one of her party's worst ever election results.

Foreign success

One reason for this is that her government is made up of Germany's two main parties: her own Conservatives and the Social Democrats, easily outweighing an opposition of three much smaller parties with no common agenda.

The most important thing is whether she can lift Germany out of its economic slump
Mark, Sheffield, UK

Another reason is Mrs Merkel's successful start on the foreign stage. She was widely credited with sealing the deal at the last EU summit and was feted by George Bush in Washington.

At home, her government has approved potentially unpopular decisions, like raising the retirement age or increasing tax.

It has not affected the chancellor however and key indexes show consumer and business confidence at their highest levels in years.

But critics say she is yet to take tough decisions on economic reform and with 5m people unemployed - more than 12% of the work force - that is an issue that will not go away.

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