`Lame duck' Schroder faces defeats

LESS THAN a year into his term, Gerhard Schroder is rapidly turning into a lame-duck Chancellor: his majority consumed by internal battles, sleaze eating into the soul of his Social Democrat party (SPD), and a series of catastrophic election defeats looming.

The party faithful were left reeling yesterday at the news that Cologne's next lord mayor will, for the first time in 43 years, not be a Social Democrat, because their candidate had been forced to pull out amid allegations of insider dealing on the stock exchange. Klaus Heugel, the city manager, has had to stand down less than two weeks before the election.

Not since the war has a German government been so unpopular so early into its tenure. The Social Democrats lag 15 points behind the Christian Democrats, whom they trounced a year ago. The Red-Green government's majority of 21 is but an illusion: 34 Social Democrat MPs have threatened to vote against the government's austerity package.

Left and right are bickering in public, Social Democrat regional grandees are abandoning their Chancellor. Nothing he does seems to placate the fury of opponents fighting for traditional social democratic values, or soothe the frantic manoeuvrings of his allies.

Next Sunday, the voters of two traditional Social Democrat strongholds will deliver their verdict on the spectacle. In both Saarland and Brandenburg, the party is in danger of losing its absolute majority in the regional assembly. In Saarland, the fiefdom of Oskar Lafontaine, they may even come second to the Christian Democrats after 14 years of uninterrupted rule.

The "New Centre" conjured up by Mr Schroder's election strategists has vanished. And the Social Democrats are somehow contriving to be losing the left flank, as well.

Saarland is still Lafontaine country, now run by the former finance minister's protege, Reinhard Klimmt. Mr Klimmt set a trend by announcing he would oppose the government's austerity plan. Yet many traditional voters refuse to view his defence of socialist values as anything other than an act of disloyalty. Saarland began to drift towards the Christian Democrats when Mr Lafontaine stormed out of the government, citing his socialist principles.

That is not to say that the Schroderites are doing any better at the polls. Municipal elections in North Rhine-Westphalia are promising to deliver an equally devastating result on 12 September.

The drumbeat of elections will roll through the autumn, each striking a note of defeat for the Chancellor. Berlin in October is likely to deliver the Social Democrats' lowest-ever share in the city. In Saxony, Mr Schroder's party is in danger of coming third.

All these results matter, because the Lander control federal legislation through the Bundesrat, parliament's upper chamber. Already Mr Schroder lacks a majority there.

In the lower house, the Bundestag, matters are less complicated. Mr Schroder will no doubt succeed in cajoling the 34 leftist rebels who want the rich to suffer. The austerity package aims to slash 30bn marks from next year's public spending.

That still raises the question of how the Bundesrat is to be persuaded to pass the most ambitious piece of legislation for years. Germany has been here before, in the last years of the Kohl government. It was that paralysis Chancellor Schroder was supposed to have ended.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
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

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

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?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style