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Monitor: German press comment on the defeat in Sunday's regional elections suffered by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's Social Democrats

WAS IT again just a slap in the face, as Franz Muntefering, the SPD's new general secretary, likes to call it? If so, then Schroder's cheek must be bruised dark red - the electorate is committing grievous bodily harm. Eighteen months ago, Schroder couldn't tell his party what he actually stood for when he became candidate for Chancellor. The voters who made him Chancellor knew only that they did not want Kohl any more, but they did not know what they would get with Schroder. Taxpayers wonder why the government wants to claw back the billions generously distributed at the start of the year. Whereas Schroder thinks he has a problem getting things across, he really has a credibility problem. He embodies what voters do not like: unsteadiness. It is payback time.

Die Welt

THE ROOTS of Germany's latest fiasco do not lie in local politics. No, the roots are to be found in Berlin, in the policies of the federal government - and, above all, they are to be found in Chancellor Schroder's disrespect for his party and its supporters. As soon as you hear the mantra of Red- Green strategists who explain defeats each Sunday, you begin to understand the reasons for these defeats. No change to austerity measures, and no alternative. The message was not put across properly. Yet whoever declares policy to be without alternative does not put it across at all. No alternative means no choice. Why then, some people in the grass roots might ask, should you go to vote?


THE SPD has suffered a brutal fall: Almost 60 per cent for Kurt Biedenkopf: even the Bavarian CSU has to take its hat off. With quarrels at election weekend, the Greens made stayed out of the Saxon parliament and the FDP has almost disappeared in the East. It is no comfort to the SPD that its organisation in Saxony is not as bad, the CDU is not as good as the election results would make it seem. But image is also part of politics, and here Biedenkopf cannot lose.

Suddeutsche Zeitung

JUST ONE year after the German federal elections, when the SPD managed to notch an impressive 40.9 per cent, Schroder's party has now collapsed to become a paltry 10-per-cent party. The message to the politicians must be clear from Saarland, Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony: Schroderland is scorched. The SPD is now lying at an historic Nadir. Things really can't possibly get any worse now, surely only better. Either Chancellor Schroder and the SPD pull their acts together before next spring - when it is the turn of the voters of Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia to have their say - or Gerhard Schroder's position, both as Chancellor and as party chairman, will certainly be up for discussion.

Bild Zeitung

ALMOST 60 per cent or the CDU is phenomenal, but not as surprising as approximately 11 per cent for SPD. It has been reduced to a marginal figure in Saxony. The SPD candidate Karl-Heinz Kunckel could not stop the federal government's austerity programme being perceived as a package from the West with uncertain contents.