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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Hair today, election tomorrow
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder's hair is now the talk of Germany
test hello test
By Rob Broomby
BBC Berlin correspondent
line

Germany's leader Gerhard Schroeder has won a major legal battle - if the colour of hair matters, that is.


His image has lost its shine, his media friendly charm has lost its bounce

His party is languishing in the polls and his re-election chances have suffered a series of blows.

But his shock of dark hair has become a topic of conversation across the land.

Although he won, the case suggests that the man once called the "Media Chancellor" has lost his sense of humour.

His image has lost its shine, his media friendly charm has lost its bounce.

Jumpy

The story began when the DDP wire service quoted an image consultant talking about Schroeder's hair colour in an otherwise positive piece.

Edmund Stoiber
The hair affair may benefit Edmund Stoiber
She said he dyed it, prompting an increasingly jumpy Chancellor to respond with an injunction - and to produce his hairdressers to reject the claims as untrue.

Mr Schroeder's rebuttal was even carried by the agency itself.

But the agency -, which is owned by the troubled Kirch media group and is trying to raise its profile - refused to give an assurance that it would not repeat the claims, saying there was a principle at stake.

The court decision, ruling in favour of the chancellor, was no surprise. Even the news agency predicted it would lose.

Insecure

But the whole affair has made Mr Schroeder appear insecure.

Stern cover
The naked truth: The SPD is lagging in the polls
As if to rub salt into his wounds, this week the Stern news magazine is running a mocked-up cover picture depicting a naked and paunchy Mr Schroeder in a scene from the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes".

The grim-faced chancellor wears a red and green fig-leaf representing the colours of his governing coalition.

Dieter Wiefelspuetz, the SPD's Parliamentary Home Affairs spokesman, described it as "tasteless".

The caption says: "The naked truth - can Schroeder still win?"

At the moment the polls suggest the answer to that is a clear "no".

But the chancellor is famed for his luck and he could still prove a better campaigner than his challenger Edmund Stoiber.

It is going to be a long hot summer.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | UK
Grey, mein Herr?
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