September 21, 2005
GERMAN ELECTIONS: 'WHAT A MESS!'
** Parliamentary elections produced the "worst possible" result--stalemate.
** Though the vote was a "draw" for the parties, it was a "disaster" for CDU head Merkel.
** German voters "recognized the need for change but feared the effects it may bring."
** Media fear fallout of Germany's "paralysis" on European economy, future of EU.
'Two winners, two losers'-- Commentators termed Germany's parliamentary elections "the most dramatic vote" in the country's postwar history and concluded it was "difficult to imagine a worse result." The failure of both Chancellor Schroeder's SPD and Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU to win a clear mandate, said Italy's leading Corriere della Sera, was "something that none of the German political parties wanted and that European governments feared." For both parties, another Euro writer added, "the results are a defeat and a watershed." A Spanish outlet declared: "This election has ended without a winner and with many losers."
A 'humiliation' for Merkel-- Though center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine concluded the vote signaled "game over" for the chancellorship of Schroeder and his "Red-Green" coalition, other German outlets termed the poll results a "disaster" for Merkel. "Angela Merkel's chancellorship is coming to an end even before it has really started," said center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung, adding that her "future is a matter of debate." Schroeder "clearly won the direct comparison with Merkel" claimed centrist Der Tagesspiegel, while business daily Handelsblatt asserted "Merkel was more honest, but scared off voters" with her tax plans. An Irish outlet concluded "Schroeder is an electoral wizard" but the CDU under Merkel "is a charisma-free zone."
Divided between 'fear of, and desire for, change'-- Euro editorialists said the elections ended in an "awful mess." Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph lamented that Germans "had the chance to set a bold example to a sluggish continent" by voting for Merkel and "desperately needed" reforms; at the least, said a Czech daily, they could have given the SPD a mandate "to continue carefully initiated changes." Instead, by "playing safe," voters "simply postponed the day of reckoning." A leftist outlet tied the German results to Dutch and French rejection of the EU constitution, calling the vote a "protest against neoliberalism." A Spanish broadsheet opined that Germans are "paralyzed by fear" of both the present and future.
'Paralysis looms'-- "Germany now enters a period of uncertainty," said Turkey's mass-appeal Milliyet, speaking for many. With no clear result, media worried that Germany faced paralysis and "political lameness" even as the rest of Europe waited for its "great (economic) locomotive" to get moving again. The difficulty in forming a government "could have serious spillover effects on Europe," a Norwegian daily noted, while a Russian outlet held the elections were "yet another blow to Europe's prospects for the future." Many found the possibility of a "grand coalition" of the SPD and CDU/CSU a "dismal" one; coalitions, stated France's conservative La Tribune, are "never fertile ground for reform."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 54 reports from 15 countries September 19-20, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
GERMANY: "That's It"
Volker Zastrow commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/20): "That's it, or does anybody out there believe that any CDU or SPD politician will push for reforms in the foreseeable future? Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schröder identified themselves with reforms, one of them more and the other less, and now they were dealt the results. For both great parties, the results are a defeat and a watershed; it is difficult to define parties that got some 30 percent of the vote as people's parties. It is obvious that Schröder was punished for his reform policy called Agenda 2010 and Hartz IV. The same is true about Angela Merkel, whose symbolic presentation of Paul Kirchhof turned her election campaign from a success to a failure. Kirchhof represented the policy of reforms. The condemnation of the man in the election campaign speaks volumes.... He was the symbol of a change of the system, and his rejection is unambiguous. Life in Germany is not so bad that a majority of people believes a comprehensive change could improve their living conditions. And they are probably right."
"Merkel's Disastrous Victory"
Kurt Kister observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/20): "There are many explanations for the crash of the CDU: Schröder's charisma, the Kirchhof flop, the uneasiness over a Black-Yellow [CDU/CSU-FDP] government with Westerwelle, the limited support by the CDU minister presidents. The fact that there was a sentiment of change against Red-Green [SPD-Greens] but not in favor of Black-Yellow is similarly important. However, the CDU/CSU's disaster carries the name of Angela Merkel. Never before was a chancellor candidate dealt a result so far away from the parties' opportunities and claims. The CDU/CSU has become the strongest parliamentary party with a wafer-thin majority--but not because of the top candidate but despite her. Given that people dislike the idea of a government led by Merkel/Westerwelle, the SPD became the strongest party in a number of states.... Since Sunday night, Angela Merkel's future is a matter of debate. If there is an exit without her from this difficult situation she will be ousted. Maybe she will realize that the wafer-thin majority of her party is her personal defeat and leave her post."
Roger Köppel noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (9/20): "The voters have spoken, and the will of the people should be respected. In democracies, majorities are more important than the truth. While all parties are now isolating themselves, the weakened opposition leader, Angela Merkel, has to take the initiative and forge a stable government. Her chances are small, but they exist. And what's about Schröder? It would not come as a surprise if the flexible chancellor turns against his party again to become a reformer once more and will lead a coalition at his mercy. The right policies matter, and not the question of who will do the job. Maybe it really has to be a leftwing coalition that must reform Germany."
"What Is Left"
Stephan-Andreas Casdorff argued in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (9/20): "The SPD did not get an unambiguous mandate to continue its policy, but Schröder has clearly won the direct comparison with Merkel. The SPD has won in the north, the west and the east, and the CDU/CSU has won in the south. Schröder has also won because Merkel has lost. The Germans did not want her, and Schröder expressed this desire of the small men in the streets. Merkel and the CDU/CSU were not a match for Schröder. The next days might show that it was not about a woman, but about this woman. People did not believe she could lead Germany."
"People's Parties Lost"
Ruth Berschens editorialized in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (9/20): "The people's parties did not find an answer to the rapidly spreading existential uncertainties. Convincing policies against unemployment did not play a role in the SPD's election campaign, and it played only a marginal role in the CDU/CSU's campaign. Gerhard Schröder comforted his party and neglected his reform Agenda 2010. Angela Merkel was more honest, but scared off voters with her financial expert Kirchhof. As a result, voters no longer believe the people's parties are capable of a social and economic crisis management. Christian and Social Democrats must work against this--regardless of who will govern, because the grand parties are the any guarantee that the country remains parliamentary governable. There is no democratic alternative."
"Clear Election Result: Red-Red-Green"
Brigitte Fehrle wrote in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (9/20): "Merkel is correct to claim the right to form a government with her as chancellor. Schröder claims the same right with fudged arguments. Both want to try to form a coalition with the small parties, the FDP and the Greens, but the outcome is unclear. However, it is not right to claim that voters have cast an unclear ballot. Since 1998, voters favored a majority beyond the CDU and FDP. Voters chose a leftwing majority.... The SPD and Greens rule out forming a coalition with the Left Party, but the conditions on the political stage are so uncertain that this can soon be history. Chancellor Schröder's will to remain chancellor appears to be so clear that the inconceivable becomes conceivable."
Dietrich Diederichs argued in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/19): "Game over. The era of a chancellor has come to an end, who, three years ago, said he did not deserve to be re-elected if he were unable to lower the unemployment rate, but then the floods along the Oder River and Germans' love for peace forced him to stay in office.... Praised as the magician of power and the media until the last moment, the voters unmasked Schröder as charlatan on Sunday. But nothing of this outcome from Sunday indicates that other parties could have benefited from the confidence which Schröder and the SPD have lost.... The fact that neither the CDU nor the CSU were able to keep the election results from 2002 reveals the distrust of many voters towards the program but also the personality of party leader Angela Merkel. To form a government on this basis is task for which she is not to be envied. And it is by no means certain whether she will gain the confidence of her opponents within the CDU/CSU. The game is open again."
"Angela Without A Land"
Heribert Prantl judged in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/19): "It is likely that September 18 was not only the end of the Red-Green government, but since that evening, Angela Merkel's chancellorship is coming to an end even before it has really started.... In the CDU/CSU the dismantling of a woman will begin who thought she had everything under control but who is a now about to lose control over everything. Rarely before has an alleged election winner been more embarrassed as this time.... The outcome of the election is a disaster for the CDU and the CSU. It has caught them unawares.... Angela Merkel is not the only one to blame; but she, too, is to blame because many CDU/CSU voters simply did not want her; but the debates over a grand coalition before the elections must also be blamed. In order to prevent this, many CDU/CSU voters cast their ballot for the FDP. They did this because they thought that the CDU/CSU would achieve a good result anyway.... With his grandiose finale, the Chancellor taught us to respect him again. He changed the SPD election campaign, which began as a funeral procession, into a feat.... The formation of a coalition will now become even more exciting than the election campaign. Many things are possible and little can be ruled out.... The political situation in Germany has now become more uncertain. The country offers a new picture. The mainstream parties are no longer as influential as they were before, and the smaller parties are no longer as unimportant. In addition to a CDSU that has been cut down in size, and an SPD, which gained votes in its core regions, the smaller parties have now turned into middle powers.... An uneasy feeling is now prevailing: will a new government succeed in keeping to its promise with which the old one failed: to reduce unemployment? What will happen if only fear and unemployment grows? This time a left-wing, middle class government was replaced by another middle-class government. If it fails again, the middle-class policy as such will be at stake."
"First Elections, Then Agony"
Nikolaus Blome opined in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (9/19): "These elections caught Germany by surprise, as did their outcome. Germans had the chance to vote between two clearly structured ways to the future, but they voted for a third way, the one through the middle, but this middle path can lead everywhere even to new elections.... As much as the ballot of the voters reflects their desire for security, it allows greater unpredictability than any time before. Only one thing is clear: the Red-Green government has come to its end. The most likely development is now a grand coalition possibly with a change of chancellors in the middle of the term.... If majorities swing back and forth so much, will there be a mandate of Germans for profound reforms in 2010? A mandate for more than a change made up from wax? Yes, this mandate exists. With the formidable result for the FDP, the voters strengthened political ambitions for reforms. In addition to any possible form of coalition, we will have the power of facts, and they are even more urgent than over the past three years. The budget misery, economic stagnation, and the scandal of mass unemployment are a mandate and legitimacy at the same time. Germany is faced with serious problems which demand leadership and grave decisions."
"Winner And Loser"
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg editorialized (9/19): "These Bundestag elections will enter the political history books as election of surprises and uncertainties for a certain period of time. The announcement of new elections was as surprising as its outcome on September 18, for the winner of last night is, at the same time, also its loser. The CDU leader failed to get a majority among Germans for her proclaimed change, for reforms, for 'more market economy and less state.'... The fact that Merkel's result was even worse than the one of CSU challenger Stoiber in 2002 is more than a humiliation; it will seal Merkel's foreseeable end soon. In order to maintain her position towards the power hungry set of CDU/CSU minister presidents, who are only waiting for their chance, Merkel should present a list of successes. But this is unlikely in view of the current situation. She has achieved one thing: it is almost certain that she will be Germany's first female chancellor."
BRITAIN: "All Options Open To Break The Stalemate"
The independent Financial Times took this view (9/20): "Foreign policy differences, such as the CDU-SPD divide over European membership for Turkey, and splits over the Iraq war and relations with the U.S., will be secondary. Getting the domestic economy moving is paramount, not just for Germany, but for the rest of the EU. On that score any new German coalition will be judged."
"Above All, This Was A Vote Against Neo-Liberalism"
Jonathan Steele commented in the left-of-center Guardian (9/20): "Sunday's central message was a protest against neoliberalism. It had much in common with this summer's votes in France and the Netherlands against the EU constitution.... Confused, bitter and bereft of leaders with a convincing program, many are joining a growing trend in saying that there must be another course."
"An Accurate Snpashot Of An Uncertain Nation"
The center-left Independent contended (9/20): "If anyone has emerged with political momentum, it is Mr. Schroeder. He could yet form a coalition, risk a minority government or contest new elections. Many will greet even the prospect of his return to power as evidence that Germans are set against change. But that would be wrong. On 18 September Germans voted for change: what they could not decide was how radical and how fast that change should be."
The conservative tabloid Daily Mail held (9/20): "The political weakness will only serve to encourage extremists of both Left and Right, threatening dangerous instability at the heart of the EU.... And let there be no mistake. While the Mail is against a federal Europe we totally support a free-trading union. What is bad for Germany--our biggest European trading partner--is bad for Britain."
The right-of-center tabloid Sun observed (9/20): "Germany is in an awful mess.... Even if the Iron Frau becomes Chancellor, she'll be powerless until the New Year. Without her at the helm, Blair's EU presidency will achieve nothing. It looks to us as if the Germans have missed an open goal."
"Voters Condemn Germany To Stagnation"
The conservative Daily Telegraph judged (9/19): "Yesterday, Europe's largest country had the chance to set a bold example to a sluggish continent. Instead, it played for safety and thereby simply postponed the day of reckoning. What a mess!"
"Paralysis In Berlin"
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (9/19): "This election was marked by deep pessimism, profound disillusion with the big parties and volatile voters who recognized the need for change but feared the effects it may bring. Much horsetrading and haggling lies ahead as these extraordinary results are digested. Germans may well want reform. But now paralysis looms because their nerves appear to have failed them."
"Germany Votes For A Hung Parliament"
The independent Financial Times took this view (9/19): "Irrespective of its leadership...a grand coalition would be a dismal prospect. It would produce the lowest common denominator of policy on the key issue of labor and welfare reform, and be unlikely to reduce radically Germany's high unemployment or dig the country out of its deep deficits."
"The Worst Result"
The conservative Times mused (9/19): "There is the question of whether any administration headed by Frau Merkel would have authority or credibility after her terrible performance. Herr Schroeder, if he has a modicum of principle, will take his party into partnership with her. But some on the Left will be advising a different course. A divided Germany is entering dangerous territory."
FRANCE: "The Lessons Of A Missed Opportunity"
Pierre Rousselin opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/20): "One thing is certain: Germany is paralyzed. One hopes that when the time comes, Germany’s political leaders will know how to put Germany’s interests before their partisan calculations.... Not only have the Germans postponed their country’s much-needed economic reform, they have thrown the EU into a period of political immobility.... But the Germans voted pretty much like the French would have.... One of the lessons from this ballot where almost everyone loses concerns the choices being offered to the voters: no one had the right answers or the creativity to help the voters overcome their fear of change."
"A Paralyzed Europe"
Francois-Xavier Pietri argued in right-of-center La Tribune (9/20): "It is clear that Germany’s uncertainties do not help Europe’s affairs. The period of political turbulence in which Germany is being propelled is rather unwelcome.... The business world is wary of a political maelstrom just when Europe’s number one economy was beginning to show signs of recovery. They know that coalitions are never fertile ground for reform. Governments themselves are in a quandary. France has nothing to gain from a weak coalition when it is looking to boost the Franco-German locomotive. 2005 started badly for Europe’s construction with the double ‘no,’ from France and the Netherlands this past spring.... Germany’s uncertainties will weigh in on European affairs, and most specifically on the difficult negotiations for Turkey’s EU membership. This year will not go down as a good year for Europe’s construction."
"A Blockage In Germany"
Pierre Rousselin observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (9/19): "One hoped that the German elections would have given new momentum to European reforms.... But political Europe, which has been stalled since the French [EU] referendum, could be more paralyzed than ever.... With anticipated elections Schroeder hoped to implement his reform program. After the elections it is to be feared that Germany has indeed become ungovernable. This is too bad for Europe in general."
Jean-Michel Helvig concluded in left-of-center Liberation (9/19): "Beyond the oddity of these elections, what stands out is that Europe is emerging as even more undecided.... The Franco-German engine is sure to trigger more pity than envy...with nothing changing until the French presidential elections of 2007."
Francois Ernenwein commented in Catholic La Croix (9/19): "Germany’s uncertainties prior to the elections have been made even worse with the election results.... And the negotiations will be arduous before the proper alchemy to govern Germany can be found."
ITALY: "Paralyzed Giant"
Lucio Caracciolo concluded in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (9/20): "Great Germany has not yet decided what it is aiming at. Its electoral stalemate is reflecting all the uncertainties of a country without a project.... This reminds us of General De Gaulle’s sharp assessment on his neighbor country: a people, not a nation. Certainly, (numerically) the biggest of all European peoples, with an economy that is globally important and with a recent enviable cultural legacy. Notwithstanding, Germany is yet unable to cross that bleak line separating its economic power from its geopolitical influence, its painful research of identity from adult awareness of itself."
"The German Paralysis"
Alberto Ronchey observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (9/20): "This uncertain electoral outcome is projecting the German people’s perplexity. However, despite all, it is predictable that this distance among 82 million Germans will be overcome in the near future and Germany, after its recent decade of disappointments, will, once again, resume its role as Europe’s driving force. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that Europe's 'pro-Germany' people not only include Austrians and Swiss, but also a large number of Slovenians, Croats, Hungarians, Czechs...and also Baltic people as far as Estonia. In any case, Germany will be able to exert its decisive influence on industry as well on our continental trade, since Russia is no longer looming, although still standing in front of 25-country Europe with its enormous energy and row material resources."
Franco Venturini opined in centrist, top-circulation daily Corriere della Sera (9/19): "What happened is something that none of the German political parties wanted and that European governments feared: the intersecting fears of economic decline and the loss of the welfare state prevailed, with the result that neither of the two coalitions proposed to the voters will have the numbers to form a government.... Thus, between those who have not really lost and those who have not really won, it will be Germany to pay the cost, and all of Europe with it.... But if negotiations and talks already underway fail to produce a result...arithmetic will leave on the table only one possible way out: the 'big coalition' between the two largest parties--both of them re-dimensioned by the voters, both against a government of national unity, but condemned to govern together due to the lack of alternatives.... All of Europe was looking and still looks to this Germany that faces serious problems, but remains the third [strongest] world economy and the first in the EU. From German reforms, Europe expects the indication for a 'third way' between Blair’s free-market policies and the old European social model, which is no longer sustainable. There is hope that German economic recovery will stimulate the global economy (and the United States is also hoping for that, and more than ever after the Katrina disaster)."
"Afraid To Change"
Alberto Pasolini Zanelli commented in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (9/19): "Germany did everything except to decide. If that was the 'turning point' the country needed, it has failed to achieve it. The post-electoral scenario shows a German parliament that resembles France’s Fourth Republic or Italy’s First Republic. Nobody has won. The red-green coalition led by Schroeder lost the majority both in terms of popular votes and parliamentary seats. The black-yellow coalition that defied it under the leadership of Angela Merkel failed to obtain the majority. From a technical point of view, the elections ended in a draw, politically speaking it was a mess.... Two winners and two losers. Schroeder lost the majority but was once again the protagonist of a sensational last-minute recovery. Merkel is perhaps leading or perhaps is not, but has certainly failed to achieve her goal, which was that of replacing the red-green majority with a black-yellow majority formed by Christian Democrats and Liberals."
RUSSIA: "Germans Let Down Europe"
Fedor Lukyanov of Russia in Global Politics held on the front page of reformist Vremya Novostey (9/20): "The unexpected outcome of the German vote is yet another blow to Europe's prospects for the future, mauled as they are in the wake of last summer's events: a decline in economic growth rates, the failures of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands, a conflict over farm subsidies, and a political fever in Paris over Jacques Chirac and his successor, all making a long logical sequel. The European Union is in a deep crisis, an ideological impasse combining with a management problem and a lack of will for change. A weak government in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, will slow Franco-German integration. British Prime Minister Tony Blair will become Europe's most influential leader pushing the British view of the EU's future with less centralization and more market, while the continent will have to defend the current ineffective system to avoid social conflicts."
"Patient Needs To Stay In Bed"
Aleksey Smirnov reported from Stockholm for reformist Novyye Izvestiya (9/20): "The elections showed that most Germans are not ready to sacrifice much to the economy, something no government can afford to ignore."
"Perfect European Types"
Kirill Kharatyan opined in business-oriented Vedomosti (9/20): "The German ballot is very indicative of Western democracy: the chief rivals are perfect types of European political figures. Angela Merkel is a real politician. A daughter of a Protestant clergyman, she is stern, intelligent, reasonable and conscientious, if not very pretty. Her program is sensible, balanced and aims to help the struggling economy. Gerhard Schroeder is a populist pure and simple. He is an atheist, talkative, wily, but not intelligent. German women and rednecks love him. When it comes to reform, he thoughtlessly follows his aides' instructions, without going into details or worrying about consequences. In the latest election campaign he once again demonstrated his talents as a showman. Schroeder enjoys strong support from energy companies that have contracts with Russia. That is why, Germans says, he and Putin are friends. From what has been said, Schroeder must be the winner."
"Germany Is Feminine"
Business-oriented Kommersant editorialized (9/19): "Yesterday’s vote was the most dramatic in postwar German history. The question whether the Germans were willing to say good bye to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder divided the nation in half. Though the Angela Merkel-led conservative opposition won by a narrow margin, Schroeder’s time is not up yet. The vote has virtually ended in a draw, as Schroeder's Social Democratic Party is likely to enter a large 'right-and-left' coalition, with the former Chancellor remaining in big-time politics."
"Germany Likes Russian Gas Better Than Russian Democracy"
Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (9/19): "Ms. Merkel might lash out at Chancellor Schroeder for marred relations with America and missed chances in cooperation with New Europe, but when it came to Moscow, German right-wingers made it clear that Angela Merkel's Russia policy will become the second edition of Gerhard Schroeder's. It turns out that the only difference is that, while Putin and Schroeder sometimes communicated in German, Putin and Merkel, with her East German background, may switch to Russian.... Germany gave the world the notion of realpolitik. Even before Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schroeder, realpolitik provided the basis of relations between 'friend Helmut' (Kohl) and 'friend Boris' (Yeltsin). Now it is Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel who, it seems, will carry the ball, the two countries' bonds supplemented with a gas pipeline contract signed in Berlin recently. Apparently, as Moscow-Berlin ties remain in that 'gaseous state,' Germany will not be among those pushing Russia to democracy."
Oleg Komotskiy wrote in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (9/19): "With Frau Merkel likely to replace 'Putin’s friend Schroeder,' the change is bad news for Russia. The CDU/CSU leader has more than once spoken of a need to put a stop to the Moscow-Paris-Berlin 'special relationship' damaging to Germany’s partnership with the United States. Besides, Merkel once said that, even though Germany will maintain friendly relations with Russia, it won’t do so 'over the heads of our neighbors' (Poland and the Baltic states). While the interests of Germany’s big business guarantee a certain level of partnership between Moscow and Berlin, Russian authorities hope for continuity in official policy."
BELGIUM: "The Aggiornamento Of The European Social Model”
Foreign editor Jurek Kuczkiewicz opined in left-of-center Le Soir (9/20): "The message that German voters sent is simple. 84 percent of them want the German model to be deeply reformed, or at least accept the idea. Indeed, four political parties are in favor of reforms. It is clearly the case of the Christian-Democrats and the conservatives. But the Social Democrats as well, with their leader Gerhard Schroeder ending his campaign with leftist ideas after having begun with conservative ideas and after extremely tough social reforms.... German voters voted for reforms, but by not giving a majority to the right, they also voted in favor of maintaining the 'social' character of this model. Yet, the German model--which is in fact the 'European social model'--is in a deep crisis, under the combined effect of globalization of the economy and of the aging population of the Old Continent. German leaders are not the only ones facing the challenge of squaring the circle.... One thing is sure: once in power, Social Democrats are always tempted to pursue rather 'free trade' policies.... The problem is that when they pursue 'conservative' policies after having won elections on leftist ideas, Socialists end up being ousted from power. That is logical since voters do not like to be deceived. This duplicity of the major social democratic parties is no longer tenable. The European left must at last make its Aggiornamento, adapting its ideological foundations to modern realities. One does not see who else could re-invent the European social model. Because when the right goes to elections with a tough conservative program, voters reject it, as German elections just showed."
"Germany Runs The Risk Of Paralysis"
Christophe Lamfalussy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (9/19): "It is clearly the worst solution that seems to come out of the German elections, i.e., a very tight neck-and-neck battle between Angela Merkel and Gerhard Schroeder that will deprive Germany of the scenario that unreliable polls announced--an absolute majority for the Christian Democrats allied with their usual partner, the Free Democrats. The left and the right will be forced to work together to conduct the important economic reforms that Germany needs. As in 2002 and as in Belgium, German voters were divided between fear and the desire for change. Yet, Germany cannot afford a government that would have its hands bound and which would lead the country to paralysis.... A sound German economy is also in Belgium’s interest. Not only is Germany our leading partner in terms of imports and exports, but it is also, together with France and the Netherlands, in the heart of this European hinterland that defends a common vision of Europe.... It is quite of a challenge for the upcoming Chancellor. When composing his or her government, the latter will also need to have a majority in the Bundesrat, the house of regional States. The door is therefore open for a big coalition with centrist parties, Christian Democrats, and Social Democrats. Germany undoubtedly increasingly looks like Belgium."
Chief editor Peter Vandermeersch commented in Christian-Democrat De Standaard (9/19): "The only possible government coalition with two parties is the so-called 'grand' coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU--which many Germans prefer. They hope that that coalition of national unity will deal unanimously with the major social-economic and institutional challenges. Yet, such a monster coalition led by a lame Merkel with a frustrated SPD threatens to be paralyzed. For that reason both major parties will try to form other coalitions.... Because the German voters did not send Schroeder away and did not give Merkel a mandate either the new government coalition may not have the muscle that is required. Will it be able to reform the pension, unemployment and taxation systems? If it does not succeed Europe’s engine may stall--which would be a dramatic thing for us, too."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Nothing-Solving Elections"
Petr Pesek commented in the center-right Lidove noviny (19/9): "It is difficult to imagine a worse result of yesterday’s election battle in Germany. The election should have clearly brought to power either right-wing parties lead by the bloc of Christian parties CDU/CSU to carry out economic reforms which the previous 'red-green' government was not able to do. Or in the worse case scenario, the Social Democrats should have received a mandate to continue carefully initiated changes. The result which gave both parties nearly the same voter percentage eliminated the possibility of either one forming a coalition with its natural smaller partners.... The hope of some basic change which Germany desperately needs does not lie in the possibility of a grand coalition.... It is therefore possible to expect that the meeting of both sides over the fulfillment of reforms will lead to half-way measures which will not bring about any fundamental change for the better.... In any case, Germany, for now, has lost hope of a speedy escape from its current malaise. And Europe will still have to wait before the largest economy of the old continent becomes again its driving force."
"German Elections End In Stalemate"
Zita Senkova stated in the mainstream MF Dnes: (19/9): "German voters' will to promote changes was not strong enough to reject unequivocally the hitherto coalition headed by Gerhard Schroeder. The general election was labeled as crucial since it was to decide on the future course of the country whose economy is stagnating. However, the fight which was at the beginning viewed as the opposition's clear victory has changed into a drama with an open end, a stalemate and a big coalition [of the CDU/CSU and SPD] on the horizon. Merkel's dream to become the next German Chancellor has faded away as neither she nor her rival Schroeder will have a sufficient majority to form the cabinet. Though it is too early to say what government Germany will have, it is clear that its citizens have no strong desire for changes."
HUNGARY: "Stalemate, Pass"
Foreign affairs writer Edit Inotai held in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (9/20): "Now, the majority of the Germans are embarrassed. All surveys show that the people know that the country needs comprehensive reforms, there are gaping holes in the government budget, the social systems are struggling with grave difficulties, and unemployment--although it seems to have started to climb slowly--is still record-breaking.... Nobody is happy. The Germans are not, because uncertainty and stagnation continue, and no one knows if the country will have a stable government at all. Nor is Europe happy, that has for years been waiting for its largest economy to start to grow. It is the German politicians' turn now to solve the great puzzle of modern-day German history. If they fail, many will be quoting G. B. Shaw who characterized democracy as: a system that guarantees that no society gets a better government than it deserves."
"The Giant In Chains"
Foreign affairs editor Gabor Stier opined in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (9/20): "The worst possible end result has emerged, and the country is threatened by political lameness. As a clear majority has failed to emerge, one can expect coalition talks more protracted than ever; moreover, in a stalemate like this, very likely the only government that can be formed will be one tormented by contradiction and irreconcilable contrasts. A direct consequence of that is that, in Europe’s largest economy, reforms will continue to slow down.... In its current situation, Germany can hardly afford a government that needs to govern with its hands tied; nor is it good for Europe if one of its giants resembles a giant in chains. An effective Germany with a strong economy--that is able to defend the program of a shared Europe--is what the neighboring countries need. Therefore, the perspective of an unnatural coalition makes everyone in the region concerned."
IRELAND: "A Grand Coalition For Germany?"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized (9/19): "Confusion, uncertainty and potential instability are the most immediate victors in yesterday's Germany's general election.... [Schroeder’s] gamble in calling the election one year early has paid off. Not only has he closed the national gap between the two blocs, but he has won a majority in most of the länder. In Germany's system of cooperative federalism, where political power is shared between Berlin and state capitals, this will make a real difference.... [An] election dominated by polarized models of economic performance may not have properly reflected political preferences or economic realities. This would be the rational basis for a grand coalition capable of negotiating big bargains between capital and labor. The outcome will have significant implications for other Europeans and the wider world. Germany's model of economic and political power-sharing inevitably affects the European Union's bargaining on these subjects as well as its economic and political well-being. This result adds to the confusion generated by French and Dutch referendums on the proposed EU constitutional treaty during the summer. More debate is needed about the alternative models of socio-economic order on offer to voters."
"No-Goal Draw In Germany"
The center-right Irish Independent concluded (9/19): "By the time the country voted yesterday, [Merkel's] lead had been eroded to vanishing point.... It was a draw: a draw that angered economists who wanted a government capable of implementing radical economic reforms but that will be more palatable to the history-conscious German electorate, who practise caution and value consensus. This was not the only lesson to be drawn from the result. In the aftermath there will be much argument and many repercussions, but some conclusions are clear: that Mr. Schroeder is an electoral wizard, that the CDU under Ms. Merkel is a charisma-free zone, and that election campaigns do induce voters to change their minds. That still does not explain such a massive swing. The Christian Democrats may have harmed themselves by flirting with, then rejecting, the modish proposal for a 'flat tax'. On a wider front, they manifestly did not persuade the people that they had in their locker credible, though perhaps less radical, ideas to revive the flagging economy. Last night it appeared that in the event it would not be possible for them to form a government with the Free Democrats. Neither would it be possible for Mr. Schroeder to renew his coalition with the Greens; and he has ruled out the far left as partners. Accordingly, the likeliest outcome is a 'Grand Coalition' of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. That was tried before, with some success. But can it work now? The conditions are not favorable. The difficulty of agreeing, much less implementing, the necessary reforms will be enormous given the distance between the parties and the relative weakness of both Ms. Merkel and Mr. Schroeder. Germany, so long the powerhouse of the European economy, looks set for a rocky ride."
KOSOVO: "The Grand Coalition!"
Augustin Palokaj had this to say in top-circulation, most respected daily Koha Ditore (9/18): "The transition from the model of a social state (where the state has a consideration for the citizen and especially for the middle class) to a state that is much more capitalistic is a dramatic change for the German mentality but also for the budget of a common citizen of Germany. The transition from the social state...has been started by the left--the social democrats and ecologists under the Schroeder-Fischer leadership--but the fact is that this left did not show enough strength to complete this process. Therefore, it will be the right (led by Angela Merkel) that will Americanize the German society almost completely. All in all, this big drama in the German society and mentality would cause even more social disturbance.... So, regardless of the option or constellation that comes out of today’s elections...one thing is certain: the reform in Germany will continue and nobody doubts that. The internal Americanization of Germany...will continue its way!"
NORWAY: "A Germany Without A Government?"
The newspaper of record Aftenposten commented (9/19): "It is close to impossible to have an election where all parties are losers, but...the Germans managed to get very close.... When a country like Germany has problems getting a stable government in place, this could have serious spillover effects on Europe. Economically and politically, Germany influences large parts of our continent, especially during a time when classic European welfare states are trying to find a balance between old-style safety nets and cooperation in an open and global--and profitable--economy.... It is unclear how Germany will now solve its government problem. Schroeder could remain in office and be tolerated by the Linkspartei [the Left Party]. He has said that he does not want any form of cooperation [with them]. Or the country could get a large coalition between the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats. But in this case, intense reforms of the German welfare state and of labor laws will fail to materialize or will be diluted--as it happened with Schroeder’s reform offensive. It is a possible, but in no way a good solution for Germany and the European economy."
"They Lost, But Said That They Won"
Independent Dagbladet editorialized (9/19): "First Angela Merkel declared herself winner of the German election. Then her opponent Gerhard Schroeder said he would continue as Chancellor.... In reality they had both lost.... The result is a chaotic political situation. Now there will be wheeling-and-dealing over the majority in the National Assembly. This power struggle will demonstrate what the politicians will make allowances for--their own positions or that of Germany and the population’s problems. The only thing all parties had agreed on in the election campaign was that Germany needs rearrangements and reforms. And that the political measures had to be introduced quickly. The election yielded a very bad foundation for this work.... Germany has close to five million unemployed. Forty percent of them have been without a job for more than a year. The election, if it should lead to a forced marriage between the two largest parties, or an untried cooperation among three others, will probably make their lives even harder."
SPAIN: "Looking For A Coalition"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (9/20): "In addition to Schroeder’s better image and electoral campaign compared to Merkel´s, the part of the Social Democrat's traditional electorate disappointed with Schroeder supported him at the last minute when they saw that the alternative was taking the lead. It was a reaction towards a political right that arouses mistrust.... The result of the election was a rejection of a neoliberal, or Anglo-Saxon, reform of the German capitalism model.... It also means that Berlin, for the moment, will not close the door of the European Union to Turkey, as Merkel advocated. But, after the French 'no' to the European Constitution...the European political paralysis continues to advance."
"The German Labyrinth"
Conservative ABC commented (9/20): "What has happened in Germany places us in the worst of scenarios: the one of uncertainty and instability.... The fact that Berlin has to focus on its own stability especially harms the possibilities to reactivate the institutions of the EU after the setback suffered with the referenda in France and the Netherlands. With the (Franco-German) axis in bad shape, and the pro-European project articulated around a defeated European Constitution that is going nowhere, the situation cannot be more complicated."
"The Great Fear"
Conservative La Razon concluded (9/20): "What has been decided is that this election has ended without a winner and with many losers who are the Germans paralyzed by fear. Fear of the present, and fear of the future.... The other brake is the gigantic and very costly social state that was built under the protection of the 'economic miracle'.... The remedy is known by all the Germans: reduction of labor costs and social benefits.... For big problems, big solutions, and the 'grand coalition,' a government made up of the two big parties, presents itself as the best, perhaps the only, alternative to overcome the paralysis.... Such difficult and important tasks require the collaboration of the two main parties.... But...no one wants [this grand coalition]. Although they will have to accept it, if necessary with other leaders, if they do not want to see their country on the siding, after being a locomotive."
"Taking The German Pulse"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (9/19): "Yesterday evening, the possibility of a 'grand coalition' between Christian Democrats and Social Democrats seemed to gain points.... It is not what the main players of this difficult electoral campaign, nor the markets, wanted. But it was not rejected by voters, who yesterday, with these results, produced another piece of evidence of the complexity of electorates in times of historic change. The important thing for the rest of the European Union is that this key economy gets a government that makes it run again, which gives the Germans their self-confidence back, and makes the great locomotive start anew."
"Germany Gets Complicated"
Conservative ABC judged (9/19): "In view of the results, it seems evident that German society did not want to make a clear decision between overcoming their atavistic fear of necessary reforms and continuing floating on the vertigo produced by the abyss of decadence. Under the current circumstances, the electoral mandate is very complex and, according to these first results, very difficult to be condensed into a homogeneous coalition.... The liberals have ahead the responsibility of favoring political stability in the country, and the current chancellor is a specialist in taking an advantage at the last moment, by taking advantage of the circumstances, as he has shown on other occasions.... But even if he got the necessary support to continue in power, this could not redeem him from the failures of his management of the government. Anyway, if the official count confirms the first impressions, it is sure that any government that is formed in Germany will last only a little while, because in view of the situation the country is going through, a clearer decision on which direction matters of state should take should be made."
TURKEY: "Colorful Scenarios"
Sami Kohen wrote in mass-appeal Milliyet (9/20): "The German election result is filled with contradictions and uncertainties. The two main rivals are winners and losers at the same time. Merkel was hoping to gain a comfortable ruling majority but it did not happen.... The current composition of the Bundestag makes it difficult to predict the nature of the coalition. It is not clear who will be the next PM. The only certainty is the fact that the German parliament is now open for every type of coalition scenario.... Germany now enters into a period of uncertainty. Every delay in forming a new government will have a negative impact on politics and the economy."
"Hard Bargain In Germany"
Zafer Atay opined in economic-political Dunya (9/20): "The election results in Germany indicate a crisis. At present, there are many different coalition scenarios but it is not certain yet which one will come to pass.... In short, Germany now enters a period where hard bargaining will take place for weeks. There is another problem hidden in the upcoming bargain: who takes the premiership? If the grand coalition plan is implemented, the position of prime minister will be a problem because both Schroeder and Merkel consider themselves winners.... There is one more point about the German elections. Merkel underestimated the strength of the Turkish-German voters and looked as if did not care about them. Schroeder, on the other hand, managed to get support from Turkish and other foreign citizens."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: "Germany's Inconclusive Verdict"
The centrist Hindu commented (9/20): "The dramatic failure of the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) combine to win a majority...makes a monkey of opinion polls that predicted a clean sweep for the conservatives. With an impressive 8.5 per cent share of the popular vote, it was the newly-formed Left Party, a merger of the East Germany-based Party of Democratic Socialism with Social Democrat Party (SPD) rebels, that shaped the inconclusive election outcome. Although weakened by inner party revolt, bitter controversy over socio-economic reform, and popular resentment over the worst unemployment levels in the country's post-war history, Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's leadership of the SPD-Green coalition remains intact.... Mr. Schroeder was able imaginatively to convey to the electorate the virtues of the SPD stance on the Iraq war and its commitment to the country's cherished social security model.... A major question in the event of a CDU-led coalition assuming office will be its ability--given its determination to push through drastic labor market changes--to manage the political upheaval from economic reforms and welfare cuts. These are precisely the issues that dogged the latter part of Mr. Schroeder's second term, and they will be seized upon by the Left Party and perhaps also by influential sections of the SPD. Post-election, political stability--said to be an imperative for Europe's biggest economy and the world's largest exporter of goods, which is currently in the midst of a slump in growth and a worsening fiscal deficit--is nowhere in sight."
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