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German Press Review: Social Democrats on Valium

German editorialists wrote on Thursday that Chancellor Schröder had managed to gain lackadaisical support for his reform plans at the Social Democratic Party convention. But the SPD is still split.

For three days the SPD have been trying to get back on track, the Saarbrucker Zeitung wrote of the annual convention, but, it said, the party had not succeeded. While Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder can finally push through his reform plans with the party's blessing, the price had been high, the paper said. "The SPD remains split between the modernizers and the traditionalists."

The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich wrote that the SPD had come to terms with their boss because they had recognized that as long as Gerhard Schröder was the chancellor they would have no alternative. They accepted Agenda 2010 also because they had no alternative. The paper added that the party was covering up its doomsday mood by downplaying the fact that it had been experiencing tough times.

According to the Rheinpfalz from Ludwigshafen, the party convention in Bochum did not weaken Schröder -- which was possibly more than what the SPD leadership could have expected. But it had not made skeptics within the party enthusiastic about the government's reform plans either. Schröder is not a party functionary, the paper wrote. Instead, he has repeatedly been at odds with the party throughout his career. In Bochum, Schröder handed out a dose of valium to the heart of the party, which was probably why he was having trouble mobilizing them.

The fact that SPD delegates chose the last day of the convention to demand the inclusion of all employees in the pensions system highlighted the mood of resistance still evident among some members, Handelsblatt commented. It was clear to the chancellor that the vote at an extraordinary party convention in June that showed that 90 percent of the SPD supported his reform plans was simply a false illusion of the party's ability to push through reforms.

The convention had not brought the SPD forward in its debate over reforms, the Freie Presse newspaper from Chemnitz wrote. Even though a majority agreed on the agenda, the mood among the party's grassroots had not improved. Instead, it had worsened, the paper said, and the leadership deluded itself in thinking the convention was a turning point. Actually, the critics of the reforms have become even more taciturn.

The Frankfurter Rundschau commented on U.S. President Bush's visit to London, saying that behind his words hides the attempt to change the course of his policies while making it appear he's sticking to the same line. But even between the lines of the presidential rhetoric was the view that much was wrong, and the occupation of the past months had failed and resistance had grown. And, the paper wrote, the realization might still come that even a superpower has to work hard for a democracy in Iraq, which cannot be simply bought from a supermarket shelf.

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