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Europe

German Press Review: Schröder's Problems

From a new splinter party to street demonstrations against welfare cuts, the difficulties facing German Chancellor Schröder's Social Democratic government were the focus of German editorials on Tuesday.

German papers largely saw Schröder's administration under heavy fire. "In their raging dissatisfaction with the government, the right and the left are not too far apart from each other," wrote Der Tagesspiegel from Berlin. It pointed to the "astounding victories of the right wing in the last few weeks" in the former East German state Saxony. But all party dissatisfaction is not limited to the former East Germany and doesn't bode well for the future, the paper continued.

The Neues Deutschland, also from Berlin, listed the blows the ruling party has taken. "The approval ratings for the Social Democrats are disastrous," the paper pointed out. "A hundred thousand people have left the party. Some of them want to start a new one, and former party head Oskar Lafontaine is among them, creating a huge challenge for Schröder. And in Leipzig, Magdeburg, Cologne and Braunschweig thousands are taking to the streets, shouting 'We are the people!'"

The Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt (Oder) opined on the dangers of the SPD breaking apart. It is "all the same to Lafontaine, that the formation of a new left-wing party could cause an existential crisis for the Social Democrats," the paper wrote. As for Schröder, the paper commented, "the soul of the party never really interested him. He has already fulfilled his historical mission -- to be chancellor for a second legislative period."

Protests against welfare cuts caught the attention of the Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf. The post-communist Party of Democratic Socialism, a major voice in the protests, is now calling itself "the party of real civil rights activists and is mobilizing masses for the street demonstrations," the paper said. Referring to the former head of East Germany's Communist Party, the paper sighed, "If only Erich Honecker could see it now."But the Süddeutsche Zeitung took the protesters to task, telling them the new welfare payments "are not intended for the rest of your life, but a short-term help to avoid real emergencies and to get through crises. The state is not responsible for keeping up the standard of living that people are used to," it reminded readers. But the paper also scolded the parties for "trying to profit from both East Germans' belief in the state and their victim mentality."