Merkel's party meets for annual congress

The conservative party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel gathered Sunday for its annual convention amid growing public discontent with her government's policies.

The congress of the Christian Democratic Union came a day after protests in cities across the country attracted hundreds of thousands of people decrying austerity measure passed by Merkel's government. The three-day convention was taking place in Karlsruhe.

Union leaders have criticized the tough cost-cutting measures of Merkel's government, warning that it was driving a deep rift through society.

Merkel underlined in comments Sunday to ARD public television that consolidating the budget remained her party's priority.

"If this year, instead of needing euro80 billion ($109.7 billion) in new debts, we only have a bit more than euro50 billion, then it is less than we feared, but still a huge amount," Merkel said.

She added that her party would seek to push through reforms to simplify the nation's cumbersome tax system, but insisted that tax cuts would not be on the program.

About 51 percent of Germans polled by the Infratest dimap group for national broadcaster ARD's monthly political query said they were less than satisfied with the work of Merkel's government, compared with only 22 percent who were satisfied. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Nevertheless, Merkel is widely expected to be re-elected as party leader in voting Monday. Merkel has led the party since April 2000.