Rene — "Apricot Revolution" anyone?

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“Apricot Revolution” anyone? -rg
By Roger Boyes
The Times/UK
September 05, 2005
Chancellor was thrown on the defensive in big debate with Angela
Merkel, his election rival.
ANGELA MERKEL, leader of Germany’s conservatives,emerged last night
as the narrow winner of a crucial television debate with Gerhard
Schröder, removing the last major obstacle to an election victory
this month.
Again and again, Frau Merkel” previously regarded as an uncertain
public performer” threw the Chancellor on the defensive.
Twenty million viewers watched as Herr Schröder struggled to
regain the initiative in what increasingly seems to be an unwinnable
election. “You cannot seriously believe that 5 million unemployed
is satisfactory,” she blurted into the middle of a long list of the
achievements of the Social Democrat-Green government.
“You are just talking down Germany and that is so dangerous!” replied
an obviously bruised Chancellor. Frau Merkel made a direct appeal to
the German people: “We need a new mentality. We have to say what can
be done instead of why things cannot be done.”
The 51-year-old physicist’s debating success rested on her ability
to suck the Chancellor into detailed discussion of tax regulations
and deny him the chance to pose as a statesman.
Frau Merkel’s one vulnerable point was on the role of women: some
members of her proposed cabinet have clear ideas about the need
for them to stay at home. But that did not alter the fact that
Frau Merkel is now poised to become the most powerful German woman
since the formidable Brunhilde, who ruled the Germanic tribes in the
seventh century.
Television has rarely played such a vital role in German politics. With
his Social Democrats lagging 11 per cent behind in the opinion polls,
the Chancellor was forced to use his 90-minute performance to persuade
millions of wavering voters that he was the most confident and able
leader of the world’s third-largest economy.
German electors seem to respect his doggedness and perhaps some of
the 36 per cent of undecided voters will give him the benefit of the
doubt on September 18.
Yet the arithmetic was solidly against him as he strode into the studio
and flashed his wolfish smile. Frau Merkel’s Christian Democrats are
scoring 43 per cent of the vote and the party’s preferred partners,
the liberal Free Democrats, are on six per cent. That easily outnumbers
the Social Democrats (32 per cent) and their partners, the Greens
(7 per cent).
Herr Schröder is personally more popular than Frau Merkel and
can radiate warmth in a way that she cannot. But the opinion polls
show clearly that Germans are fed up with the Social Democrat-Green
Government, with its aura of stagnation. All Frau Merkel had to do
was dodge the bullets.
She spent the past few days preparing for the duel. A retired TV
newsreader taught her how to stress certain words to escape her
usual flat delivery. The star hairdresser Udo Walz, who also cuts
Herr Schröder’s hair, has feathered her Cromwellian cut. Make-up
artists have changed her eyeliner while her dress designer, Anna
von Griessheim, has put her into warm fruity colours so that she can
brand her campaign the “apricot revolution”.
No one expected Frau Merkel to emerge as a charismatic heroine last
night and that was to her advantage. As long as she did not fall from
the podium, she was bound to score simply by making the Chancellor
appear overly slick.