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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Stoiber: Good, but not good enough
Stoiber receives a bouquet from CDU leader Angela Merkel
Stoiber puts a brave face on failing to oust Schroeder

Germany's right-wing election challenger, Edmund Stoiber, wanted what no man had achieved before - to be the first Bavarian to head a German government.

For much of the campaign it looked as if he would reach his goal. He consistently led Mr Schroeder in the opinion polls and tried to make Germany's difficult economic position his top election issue.

Mr Stoiber could always point to his success in his native Bavaria, where he boasted of the so-called Laptops and Lederhosen culture: the combination of a booming high-tech industry, the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and a love of the province's conservative tradition.

Stoiber with his wife Karin
Stoiber emphasised family values
On paper, Mr Stoiber should have had an easy enough task. Unemployment under Mr Schroeder's government had fallen slightly in mid-term, but as the election neared it rose again to more than four million.

But in the final crucial weeks of campaigning, Mr Stoiber often failed to set the agenda himself. He would have liked to focus on unemployment, promoting family values, law and order, or immigration. But he was forced instead to react to events.

Flooding and Iraq

The widespread flooding in eastern Germany over the summer caught Mr Stoiber on the hop as it emerged he did not have a spokesman for environmental affairs. This led to the impression he did not take "green" issues seriously - a serious lapse in a country such as Germany.


The impression persisted that Mr Stoiber was not as good at "thinking on his feet" as he should have been

Towards the end of campaigning, his position on a possible US attack on Iraq led to confusion as he initially criticised Mr Schroeder's rejection of military action, only then to row back and insist the US must get the backing of the United Nations.

The impression persisted that Mr Stoiber was not as good at "thinking on his feet" as he should have been.

Wooden, dull and dour

His campaign had started badly with a number of gaffes. He was also seen as wooden, dull and dour.

But his performance gradually improved, so that in the first of two TV debates with Mr Schroeder, he was widely judged to have out-manoeuvred his more media-savvy rival.

Edmund Stoiber:
Stoiber ponders the future
He can claim some success from his campaign, even if the ultimate prize eluded him. The conservative alliance of CDU and CSU hauled itself back from its poor showing in 1998, gaining well over 3%. His own Bavaria-based CSU became the third largest party in the Bundestag.

But ultimately he was let down by his potential coalition partner, the FDP, which had aimed for 18% and achieved less than half that figure.

Mr Stoiber will now move centre-stage within the German opposition. He is 61 years old and has been in Bavarian politics since his late twenties.

One of his foremost achievements in this election is to have gained for himself a political credibility which stretches way beyond his Bavarian homeland.

Gerhard Schroeder

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