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Europe

German Press Review: Lessons From the French Election

German papers on Tuesday reflected on the crushing defeat of Chirac's conservatives in regional elections in France and draw some parallels to the political situation in Germany.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said the resounding defeat for the conservatives in regional elections in France is yet another example of the European malaise that has already taken hold in Germany, Poland and Italy. All face the same key domestic troubles -- a stagnating economy, unemployment and fear of an uncertain future, the paper wrote and added that if one is to believe the opinion surveys in these countries, people there are familiar with these problems and know that the creaking western European welfare state has to be reformed if it is to survive. Governments promising reform are elected, but then to fail to live up to their promises. The daily concluded, we are left with the simple question -- 'are European societies capable of stomaching unpleasant reforms?'

Evidently not, according to the Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel. People don't want reforms that hurt, the paper said, even though they know in theory that sacrifices will have to be made. Is every government that takes something away from its citizens condemned to defeat at a subsequent election, the paper asked and answered, it would appear so, if Scandinavia and the Netherlands are anything to go by. As France's welfare minister said after Sunday's debacle "we have a problem with the electorate," the paper pointed out.

The Abendzeitung also detected similarities between France and Germany in light of France's regional elections. Governments of both countries have now be punished by the electorate for pushing through unpopular reforms, the paper wrote. Differences between left-wing and right-wing now appear to have become blurred. Together Chirac the conservative and Schröder the Social Democrat opposed the war on Iraq, together they are watching their reforms unravel and given the opportunity, the opposition in both countries would have probably done much the same as they did anyway, the paper opined.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung sought to put the regional elections into perspective. Chirac has a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament, it said. The left-wing parties have acquired power in the regions, but their influence at national level remains minimal, in spite of devolution. Socialists, Communists and Greens will be confined to the opposition benches until 2007, the daily prophesized. .