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Europe

European Press Review: A Conservative Triumph?

Monday's European papers comment on the significance of Germany’s choice for president, former IMF head Horst Köhler.

Switzerland’s Berner Zeitung viewed the election of Horst Köhler to the post of president within Germany as no surprise. It was clear to the paper that the opposition parties wanted to signal a shift to their advantage by choosing Köhler. That is why a show of unity was a top priority, said the daily. But this kind of political calculation on the part of the opposition leaves a bad taste in the mouth, wrote the paper and concluded that something like this is nevertheless to be expected in a country which has been facing a crisis for along time.

For the Italian paper La Repubblica, the choice of Köhler for president was also a sign of a conservative shift within Germany. The daily further saw the victory of opposition-backed Köhler as a significant political and personal triumph for the head of the conservative CDU party Angela Merkel over Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, two years before the 2006 elections.

In the Netherlands, De Volkskrant newspaper believed that Germany’s likelihood of electing a female chancellor has not been diminished by the election of a man to the post of president. The paper observed that through Köhler’s victory, Germany’s opposition parties are demonstrating that they are forming the new majority – even if Chancellor Schröder’s term in office officially runs for another two years. Opposition leader Angela Merkel will no doubt see the election of Köhler as a vote against the ruling red-green coalition, concluded the daily.

Austria’s Kurier argued that, as a trained global economist, Horst Köhler is a very promising choice for president, because he is able to clearly say what is urgently needed in Germany: the courage for fundamental reform of the social welfare system, in order to make the country fit for the future. The paper also pointed out that the election of a president from an opposition party has always been a sign that the party ratio within parliament will change as well. The daily concluded by saying that Köhler’s victory shows that the chances of opposition leader Angela Merkel becoming Germany’s first female chancellor in 2006 are very much alive.

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