- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

Angela Merkel, a scientist from the former East Germany who has a drab image but high ambition, fired the starting gun yesterday for what promises to be a close-run German general election, announcing that she wants to be the first woman chancellor.
Ending months of speculation, Mrs. Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU), made clear that she would put herself forward to be chosen as a challenger to Gerhard Schroeder in the September election.
Her declaration opened the way for an imminent showdown within the center-right opposition between Mrs. Merkel and the right-wing Edmund Stoiber, who is the prime minister of Bavaria and the leader of the CDU's sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
Both know that their chances of becoming chancellor are higher now than at any time in the past two years. The CDU/CSU alliance has hauled itself back into reckoning from a desperate position at the start of 2000 and now is running neck and neck in the polls with Mr. Schroeder's Social Democrats.
Mrs. Merkel, 47, and Mr. Stoiber, 60, who also spelled out his ambition to be selected yesterday, have decided to try to sort out the matter at a private meeting within three weeks.
If they cannot agree behind closed doors, party officials will have to make the choice.
Announcing her intention, Mrs. Merkel told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, "I am ready to be the candidate for chancellor." Then, referring to her battle to repair the damage inflicted on her party by a spending scandal involving the ex-chancellor and party leader, Helmut Kohl, she said, "I have made a real contribution toward leading the CDU out of the worst crisis in its history."

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