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Europe

German Press Review: A Fighting Chancellor

German editorials on Monday commented on Germany's social reforms by taking up Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's criticisms of his opponents.

The Mannheimer Morgen said the chancellor has discovered the fighter in himself. With his attack on his critics he wasn't just getting rid of his anger at the opposition. He was also telling the critics in his own party: "I'm in charge and not you." But although the outbreak was supposed to express strength, it is in fact a sign of weakness, the paper noted: "If the chancellor were so uncontroversial in his party as he maintained at the weekend, he wouldn't have to say such things. His job is in danger. So he's fighting."

The Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung from Essen also saw Schröder on the defensive. The reforms to the social system are designed as cuts, it noted. The government should have said as much and not pretended they were designed as the launch rocket for the economic recovery. The chancellor has used the reforms as a firework to dazzle the public. "Now, it's exploded in his hands," the daily concluded.

The business daily Handelsblatt saw what it calls the chancellor's "new, almost defiant self-confidence" in more positive terms. It's not based so much on the support of his own party, but on the support he is winning among the people, the paper noted. He and his deputy chancellor, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, are becoming more popular with the voters the more they distance themselves from their parties. And they're well ahead of their challengers, opposition politicians Angela Merkel (CDU) and Guido Westerwelle (FDP): "If the chancellor and power politician Gerhard Schröder can succeed in disassociating himself from the downward trend of his Social Democrats, then the race for the chancellorship in 2006 is by no means lost." The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung referred to the chancellor's reference to those who have "taken shelter in the undergrowth," by which he meant the politicians in the opposition who agreed to the reforms and now don't want to have anything to do with them. If Schröder were to be so tough on everyone who had taken shelter in the undergrowth, then he would be pretty much left on his own, the paper noted. Members of his own party are just as guilty as the opposition. "His nervousness is understandable," the daily wrote. The government information campaign which has just started will not convince his own followers as much as the continuing demonstrations and the likely defeats in the state elections in September.