Brandenburg win for SPD

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POTSDAM - A former Communist narrowly lost the race to become mayor in the Brandenburg state capital of Potsdam yesterday as the Social Democrat (SPD) incumbent came from behind to win a run-off ballot.

Rolf Kutzmutz, of the reformed communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), had shocked Germany two weeks ago by outdistancing the SPD mayor Horst Gramlich in the first round of voting.

But Mr Kutzmutz, whose populist campaign was directed at the so- called 'losers of German unity', failed to pick up any further support in yesterday's vote.

Mr Kutzmutz, who had 45 per cent of the vote in the first round, won the same percentage yesterday. Mr Gramlich, who won just 29 per cent two weeks ago, received 55 per cent, according to television computer projections. That marked a 25 per cent increase.

'Naturally I'm disappointed,' Mr Kutzmutz said. 'I knew it was going to be close. But my goal was to make it to the run-off election. I believe people will now pay more attention to the issues we feel are important.'

Mr Gramlich said he was above all relieved that the SPD had rallied to win in the second round. He admitted that he had failed to focus on issues that were important to voters and vowed to do a better job in his second term.

'The voters gave us a warning two weeks ago and I believe we have learned from our mistakes,' Mr Gramlich said. 'We will take the issues that people care about very, very seriously from now on.'

Many politicians had assumed the PDS, successor to East German leader Erich Honecker's communist SED party, was heading for oblivion after the collapse of East Germany in 1990. But the PDS rode a powerful wave of voter frustration with soaring unemployment and economic upheaval since German unification.