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German Press Review: Troubles for Schröder and Putin

German editorial pages on Monday morning dealt with the major blow to the Social Democrats in the Saarland election and the aftermath of the North Ossetian hostage crisis.

Although German papers called the Saarland result a loss for the Social Democrats, they didn't necessarily see it as a victory for the major opposition party, the conservative Christian Democrats. Rather, the papers observed a kind of fragmentation among the political allegiances of German voters across various political parties, major and minor.

The Frankfurter Rundschau described Germans as "running away from the Social Democrats, and heading in all different directions: to the Greens, to the Free Democrats, and" also simply "to not voting." The "dangerous drop in disgust for the" far-right "National Democratic Party" was, for the paper, a "bad omen for the coming elections in two east German states fourteen days from now." The paper warned "every vote for the far right -- whether out of protest, desperation, or uncertainty -- is a blow to the" democratic "political culture." The Frankfurter Rundschau announced that "democracy was also a loser in this election."

The Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich predicted that the Social Democrats will continue "to be punished in coming elections in the East and also" next May "in North Rhine-Westphalia," a traditional Social Democratic stronghold.

The Express of Cologne agreed and wrote, "There is only one hope for the Social Democrats: that national economy picks up steam." But the Express lamented that "it doesn’t look right now like that’s going to happen."

Editorial writers were, along with the rest of the world, regretful about the deaths of the children in North Ossetia. However, they also lashed out at German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for not being more critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Chechnya policy, which they blame in part for the rise of terrorism.

Der Tagesspiegel from Berlin found it hypocritical that Schröder was willing "to do away with solidarity with the Bush administration before the Iraq War," but at the same time "isn’t willing to criticize Russia, despite all the state-sponsored terrorism in the Caucasus region." It upset the paper that "Schröder creates distance from the Americans, who make mistakes but share common values," but "exchanges hugs with the Russians, who clearly deny those values." The daily paper observed that "a conscience which stirs over American mistakes cannot be silent about Russia."

The taz from Berlin judged Schroeder’s attitude as "not only dangerous, because it will just feed the flames of the Caucasus conflict; it’s shameful, for a chancellor whose party just advertised itself in an election as a ‘force for peace.’"

The leftist Neues Deutschland, also from Berlin, called the hostage crisis in Beslan "a symbol for the failure of Putin’s hard-line policies." The daily worried that "without a return to the negotiation table, with a real political concept for the region or economic development, there will be more Beslans in the future."

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