* Call follows series of insults between coalition partners
* Economists worry about long-term prospects of government
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN, June 11 German Chancellor Angela Merkel
ordered the parties in her centre-right coalition on Friday to
stop squabbling over government policies and trading insults
with each other, saying it undermined voters' confidence.
In the last couple of weeks, sharp differences within
Merkel's coalition of conservatives and the pro-business Free
Democrats (FDP) have been exposed and politicians from the three
parties have hurled insults at each other.
A government spokesman was forced to deny Merkel's chief of
staff Ronald Pofalla had described Defence Minister Karl-Theodor
zu Guttenberg as Rumpelstiltskin, a fairy tale dwarf who spins
gold but throws a tantrum when he loses a wager.
An FDP lawmaker this week accused Bavaria's conservative
Christian Social Union (CSU) of acting like a destructive "wild
sow" for scuppering his party's health reform plans and a senior
CSU politician retaliated, calling the FDP a "bunch of clowns".
In an uncharacteristically direct appeal, Merkel urged her
colleagues to restrain themselves.
"People who talk about each other like this must not be
surprised if respect is lost for politics. I am not prepared to
accept that," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
The infighting has caused some experts to fret about the
long-term prospects of Merkel's government.
"The current level of conflict between the conservatives and
FDP certainly goes beyond the normal and some commentators have
started to question the stability of the government," said
Goldman Sachs economist Dirk Schumacher in a research note.
Discord over possible German aid to carmaker Opel is the
latest flashpoint. Just hours after FDP Economy Minster Rainer
Bruederle ruled out state aid for the General Motors' unit,
Merkel appeared to undermine him by saying the last word had not
been said on the matter [ID:nLDE6592HJ].
She has since failed to spell out new ideas, merely making
vague proposals such as using research and development funds.
Merkel is under pressure to seize the political initiative
and boost her party's support, languishing at four-year lows.
An Infratest dimap poll showed the conservative camp down 1
point at 31 percent on Friday. The FDP were down 2 points at 6
percent, less than half their score in September's federal
In a bid to revive her fortunes and quash criticism of her
leadership during the euro zone debt crisis, Merkel this week
unveiled Germany's biggest austerity drive since World War Two.
But even that has drawn fire from her allies. Some
conservatives said it lacked ambition in terms of cuts while
others argued she should have raised the top income tax level.
Merkel also faces an unexpected battle to ensure her
candidate, conservative Christian Wulff, is elected president on
June 30 given wide support in the German media for opposition
candidate, Joachim Gauck [ID:nLDE6580OI].
"A failure of chancellor Merkel's candidate Wulff to get a
majority could easily be the beginning of the end of the
coalition," said Schumacher.