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

people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
voicesBy the man who has
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

KS1 & KS2 Teacher

£115 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: We are looking for infants and...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?