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Europe

German Press Review: Resigned to Defeat?

Tuesday's German editorials again looked at the massive losses in support for Germany's ruling Social Democrats in the European parliamentary elections.

German editorial writers seemed to be in full agreement that the Social Democratic party won't be ruling the country after the next elections -- which at the latest will be in the year 2006. The Neues Deutschland from Berlin said that the Social Democrats "feel like victims on behalf of their people and their fatherland," for their unpopular reform agenda. But the "bigger victims" of the agenda are the people, the paper said, and it calls the Green party "the only political power which can bring the Social Democrats to their senses and to self-preservation." The Greens are the Social Democrats' coalition partner. Thus, the paper suggested, the Greens can "set new a new course" for the government. But by refusing to do so, the Greens seem also to be expecting "only to govern for two more years." So the Neues Deutschland concluded that the Red-Green coalition "must have a death wish."

Die Welt, also from Berlin, pointed to the words of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder after the election losses: "I can only go ahead with the current policies, and I only want to go ahead with the current policies." The words remind the daily of Martin Luther, who insisted "Here I stand; I can't do otherwise." Luther's statement, the paper said, "led to the break-up" of the Christian Church; Schröder's "just indicate a sullen resignation."

The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf wrote Schröder has gone from being a leader of his party to one of those being led. "Critics within the Social Democrats had forced Schröder's resignation as party head," and "now they are calling for a cabinet reshuffle."

The Freie Presse from Chemnitz in eastern Germany also predicted Schröder's demise. It compared him to former conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl. "During Kohl's sunset, he tried half-heartedly to reform the crusty old system," the paper wrote. "Schröder himself came into power with populist promises to undo Kohl's mini-reforms." But now the conservatives "won't profit much from the loss of face of the Social Democrats" because "they are also responsible for" current policy. The paper guessed that all in all the consequences will be that "great parties will shrink to relatively small parties."

The Stuttgarter Zeitung took the same line and imagined that "if the conservatives were in power, things wouldn't be different for them. It's easy to celebrate a victory, give big speeches and pitch yourself as an alternative, even if you've also been partly responsible for the poor policy," the daily commented. "Sometimes it's fun to be in the opposition."

And the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung from Halle accused the Social Democrats of being "intellectually and emotionally unprepared" to implement reforms. "With the change in government in 1998, Red-Green hoped for economic growth and a healthy world economy to solve Germany's problems. But these hopes are destroyed and the party lies helpless."