- Angela Merkel - France - Germany - Nicolas Sarkozy
Merkel throws her weight behind Sarkozy
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made good her promise to support fellow conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s re-election campaign on Monday, by making a series of TV appearances with the leader who has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
REUTERS - German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood by her promise to back Nicolas Sarkozy's re-election campaign on Monday, flanking the French president in two TV appearances and insisting that it was natural to support a fellow conservative.
Merkel's decision to back Sarkozy in the two-round election in April and May - a commitment made even before he has formally announced his candidacy - has raised eyebrows in France, where there is already a feeling that Berlin is calling too many shots in resolving the euro zone crisis.
While opinion polls show many French admire Germany's might as an economic power and exporter through the current crisis, there is still soreness over the fact Germany kept its AAA credit rating when France was downgraded last month.
Merkel's party said last month that she would "actively support" Sarkozy by making joint appearances with him during his campaign, although she would do so as head of her Christian Democrat party and not as German chancellor.
"I support Nicolas Sarkozy in every area because we belong to two friendly political parties," Merkel said during a joint news conference at Sarkozy's presidential palace.
"I find it perfectly natural to support him in a campaign," she said in a subsequent joint TV interview that was broadcast in both countries.
Sarkozy, who plans to launch his re-election bid as close as possible to a March 16 deadline, said he was heartened by the support of somebody he admired and liked but said French people would decide themselves who to vote for on April 22 and May 6.
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande, who is way ahead of Sarkozy in opinion polls, quipped during a trip to the central city of Dijon that Merkel had her work cut out. "That's some task she's taken on," he said. "The fact Nicolas Sarkozy needs Mrs. Merkel says a lot about his situation."
First-round support for Hollande has inched up to 30 percent an Ifop-Fiducial poll for the weekly Paris Match showed, with Sarkozy on 23.5 percent, followed by far-right leader Marine Le Pen on 19.5 percent and centrist Francois Bayrou on 11.5.
Earlier, Sarkozy stressed his friendly ties with Gerhard Schroeder of Germany's centre-left Social Democrat Party.
Germany's role in France's economic future is weighing heavily in the election campaign, and as far back as November the satirical current affairs show "Les Guignols de l'Info" portrayed Merkel as France's president, ordering the French to get off the beach and back to work.
A Harris Interactive poll published on Monday found that 50 percent of respondents believed Germany could serve as an economic model for France, but 58 percent thought German ideas would be hard to put into practice and 64 percent could not imagine living in Germany.
Hollande has made two trips to Berlin in recent months to visit left-wingers and has said that if elected, he would make a first foreign trip within days to see Merkel in Berlin. To date the chancellor has declined his invitations to meet, but aides do not rule out her doing so before the election.