Kohl makes way for a new era

THE BALANCE of power in Europe tilted to the left last night as Helmut Kohl, the world's longest-serving democratic leader, suffered a crushing defeat in Germany's general elections. His departure opens the way to a government led by the Social Democrats' Gerhard Schroder.

"Kohl is gone, Kohl is gone," chanted jubilant supporters, who had flocked in their thousands to the Social Democrat (SPD) headquarters in Bonn.

As provisional results showed a majority of six seats for the "Red-Green" government, leaders of the two left-wing parties met at midnight in an attempt to form the new government.

According to early projections, Mr Kohl's Christian Democrats were trailing Mr Schroder's party by around six points; almost the exact reversal of their respective results four years ago. "After 16 years of government, the Kohl era is at an end today," said Mr Schroder. "The elections have brought about a generational change."

"I stand for economic stability and development ... and continuity in foreign policy," he said, adding that his priority would be the "battle against mass unemployment."

"The 'new centre' of Germany has decided and the SPD has won them back ... it will be our task to modernise our country thoroughly and overcome the logjam of reforms."

The "new centre" in Mr Schroder's parlance is middle-of-the-road voters, those who had cast their votes for Mr Kohl in previous elections. For these, Mr Schroder offered reassurance. "I don't want to do everything different, only better," he pledged.

Mr Kohl, Chancellor for the past 16 years, conceded defeat just an hour after the polls closed. "There is nothing to discuss about this defeat," he said at the headquarters of his Christian Democrat Union (CDU). "The Social Democrats have won the elections." He also announced he would be resigning as chairman of his party.

Konrad Adenauer House, the CDU nerve centre, soon emptied after that. The hearty food prepared in advance was left intact, the crates of drinks not drunk. "We were not able to push through our reform policies, which demanded some sacrifices from people," admitted Peter Hintze, the CDU general secretary.

"The opposition said it could be done without efforts. The people responded to this offer. Now the other side has to show how they will fulfil these promises."

Uncertainty remains about the nature of the next government. According to projections, the Social Democrats together with the Greens might have a majority of a handful of seats in the new parliament. That might be deemed to be too slim, given the unreliability of some "fundamentalist" Green MPs.

The final balance was at the mercy of the smaller parties. Both the Greens and the Free Democrats - the junior party in the outgoing coalition - scraped into the Bundestag with just over 6 per cent of the vote each.

Early results last night suggested the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the barely reconstructed communists of east Germany, had won four seats in Berlin, thus qualifying for about 30 seats in the Bundestag. This might rob the Red-Green coalition of a workable majority.

The Free Democrats, who had governed in the past with the Social Democrats, declared last night that this time they would remain in opposition.That may leave Mr Schroder courting the CDU in an attempt to form a "grand coalition".

Early projections indicated the SPD would win about 289 seats of the 656-seat Bundestag. The CDU and its Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union, were headed for a joint tally of 242 seats.

Gates open, page 11

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis