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Germany’s Merkel sets stage for 2013 elections

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was easily reelected Tuesday to lead her Christian Democratic Union party.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was easily reelected Tuesday to lead her Christian Democratic Union party.

BERLIN — Chancellor ­Angela Merkel launched her bid for reelection Tuesday, telling party faithful her government has successfully steered Germany through the worst of the European financial crisis and is best equipped to guide it through what may still be tough times ahead.

Speaking at her Christian Democratic Union’s party congress in Hannover, she noted that unemployment in Germany is down, the economy is still growing while others in Europe are stagnating or shrinking, and that the deficit has been reduced.

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‘‘We have guided Germany out of the crisis stronger than Germany entered the crisis,’’ she said to a cheering audience.

In a nod to her struggling coalition Free Democratic Party partners, she said ‘‘in these times no coalition could lead our country better.’’

Party members gave Merkel’s record a resounding endorsement after her speech, reelecting her with a landslide majority of 98 percent of the vote. Merkel has led the party since 2000 and has governed Europe’s biggest economy as the country’s first female chancellor since 2005.

Nationally, recent polls show that Merkel is far more popular than Peer Steinbrueck, the candidate for chancellor of the main opposition Social Democratic Party.

But elections are 10 months away and with support for Merkel’s party far above the others the chancellor is in a comfortable position for the 2013 election, said Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University. The ­eurozone debt crisis is a potential problem, but perhaps not as much of one as it might seem.

‘‘The worse the crisis gets, and with it the effects on German budget and financial policy, if it becomes clear to voters here that there is less money for national matters, that could damage Mrs. Merkel,’’ Neugebauer said. ‘‘Then her credibility would take a knock.’’

Merkel acknowledged that these are turbulent times and that while it might be tempting to say ‘‘the euro is saved’’ there are signs that German growth could slow next year as other eurozone countries remain mired in recession.

‘‘I will say here explicitly — we must be careful,’’ she said. ‘‘This crisis cannot be solved overnight because it didn’t happen overnight.’’

Germany is the largest contributor to eurozone rescue funds, and Merkel pledged continued support to other countries, saying that ‘‘in the long run, Germany only does well when Europe does well.’’

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