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Europe

German Press Review: Social Democrats Win in Bremen

Editorialists at newspapers across the country dissected regional elections in Bremen on Monday and declared victory for the Social Democrats but not for party leader Gerhard Schröder.

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Commenting on the surprisingly clear victory of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s Social Democrats in regional elections in Bremen, the local Bremer Nachrichten said the election had a lot less to do with Germany's leader than the city's mayor, who ran a masterful campaign. "The chancellor's share in winning the election was exactly zero," the paper's editors wrote on Monday. "Bremen Mayor Henning Scherf, however, led an intelligent election campaign. In concentrating on regional policy and not touching federal policy at all, he did exactly the right thing."

The mass-circulation Bild newspaper, meanwhile, opined that the election result would enable Schröder, who is under increasing political pressure, to take a deep sigh of relief. The paper identified Scherf as the clear winner in the election, writing that voters have confirmed that he's been doing a good job and have given him a mandate to continue doing so. As for Schröder, the beleaguered chancellor will be in a stronger position "as it comes one week before the special party congress that will decide his fate."

Israel’s acceptance of the so called "road map" for peace in the Middle East also attracted the attention of many German papers.

The Cologne-based Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger stressed that this was the first time Israel had committed itself to the establishment of a neighboring Palestinian state. Therefore Israel’s “yes” could be called historic, the paper declared. A state of Palestine would now be possible, the paper stated. But there are still pitfalls on the road ahead – with the real test coming through the implementation of the plan, the editors wrote.

The road map can only be implemented if certain conditions are fulfilled, opined the editors of the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The plan only has a chance if Palestinian president Yasser Arafat is stripped of all his powers and hands over authority to prime minister Machmud Abbas," the paper warned. But progress also requires greater action from the Americans. "U.S. President George W. Bush must now fully engage in moderating between Israelis and Palestinians," the Süddeutsche wrote.

The editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung opined that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to give in because he couldn't afford a conflict with Bush. "If Sharon hadn't accepted the road map, Israel would have been in danger of being isolated and economically weakened," the paper argued, adding, "never before was the gap between rich and poor in Israel deeper, never was there more unemployment in the country." Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians can afford to continue with their current policies, the paper concluded.