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Sunday, September 27, 1998 Published at 19:13 GMT 20:13 UK

World: Europe

Kohl's long reign ends

Gerhard Schröder - the dream is realised

Key moments in the Kohl era
The German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, has acknowledged that his 16-year hold on power has ended.

Kohl concedes defeat (in German)
An hour after TV exit polls gave opposition Social Democrat leader Gerhard Schröder a five per cent lead in the general election, Mr Kohl conceded defeat and resigned as chairman of the Christian Democratic Party.

[ image: Casting his vote, Chancellor Kohl had been confident]
Casting his vote, Chancellor Kohl had been confident
Mr Schröder described the result as a generational change, and said his duty was to unite and modernise Germany.

According to the latest computer estimates, his Social Democratic Party got 42.1% of the vote compared with 34.4% for Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic alliance.

Gerhard Schroder:"We must modernise the country"
However, it is the votes for the smaller parties which will determine what sort of ruling coalition will be formed.

Mr Shröder and the SDP leader Oskar Lafontaine have already met with the Greens parliamentary leader Joschka Fischer.

John Simpson: Across Germany, the Kohl era ended quietly
Television projections of the final vote indicate the SDP could have a majority of 16 seats.

According to projections, the Greens had 6.7% of the vote, the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) - the junior partner in the ruling coalition - 6.5%.

Germany's reform communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) scored 5.1%, meaning it has passed the 5% mark necessary to return to parliament.

But it appears too early to tell if Mr Schröder will lead a left-leaning coalition with the Greens or a so-called "grand coalition" with the CDU.

Blair welcomes centre-left victory

Tony Blair: "looking forward to working with Mr Schröder"
The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair welcomed the result, saying it would be "tremendous" to have centre-left governments in Germany, France and Great Britain.

Despite scattered showers around the country, turnout was high, at 1600 (1400 GMT) running at 61% compared with 59% at the same time in the elections in 1994.

Voters turned out in especially large numbers in the economically ailing east which pollsters had said before the vote had turned against the Chancellor after backing him strongly in the two previous Bundestag elections since reunification in 1990.

Winning the new centre

Germany has chosen a man who is considered untested on the world stage, at a time of global economic uncertainty.

[ image: Gerhard Schröder:
Gerhard Schröder: "A little bit excited"
At 54, Mr Schröder is 14 years younger than Helmut Kohl, and his political style has been compared by many analysts with the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Throughout the campaign Mr Schröder has put aside left-wing ideology, trying rather to win over what he calls the new centre of German politics.

Gerhard Schröder says he willrenew Germany's economic system, cut unemployment, and trim the state's overgenerous welfare payments without harming those in real need.

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