German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave outgoing Vice Chancellor Franz Müntefering the ultimate parting gift today. Münteferingon, a force behind the scenes at the '06 World Cup, retires amid grumblings that his departure is expected to usher in a period of greater friction in German politics. He had been spending the last two years stressing what the two biggest political parties, the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, had in common, keeping a fragile alliance intact. The two currently form a Grand Coalition, only the second in post-war Germany. The initial incarnation of this alliance was in 1966 and lasted just three years. So far, Merkel's recent vintage is a little more than a year short of that mark.