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Germany

German Press Relieved by Call for Early Polls

The German press breathed a sigh of relief Friday that President Horst Köhler paved the way to new elections, ending weeks of uncertainty and offering the promise of a fresh political start. "Now WE have the choice!" cheered mass-selling daily Bild, calling Köhler's decision Thursday to dissolve parliament and call early elections on September 18 "historic." "Now the sizing up of the parties and the competition for the best solutions for the major problems facing the country begin," Bild's editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann wrote. The paper then listed 50 reasons to vote for Chancellor Gerhard Schröder versus 50 to vote for his conservative challenger Angela Merkel, who is tipped to become the country's first female leader. Berlin's center-left Tagesspiegel said Köhler's call had "spared Germany an agonizing year of political standstill," but noted that the elections could still be stopped by a constitutional court challenge. "Köhler has taken a great risk. If the constitutional court upholds a complaint against his decision, it would be a blow to his presidency from which it would hardly be able to recover," he said. The Financial Times Deutschland, the German sister paper to the London-based broadsheet, said the waiting game following Schröder's announcement in May that he would seek new elections and Köhler's permission Thursday had created deep uncertainty in the country. "Köhler's grounds for his decision were much more political than legal. Germany needs a new start, that was the message," it said. "But he must be convinced that his decision will be upheld by the constitutional court in Karlsruhe. "Now the second act of the face begins: Waiting for Karlsruhe."

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