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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 15:03 GMT
Analysis: Germany's lonely leader
Gerhard Schroeder
Lonely at the top: Schroeder has lost support

The German media call him 'the lonely chancellor' - and you can see why.

The Social Democrats' crushing defeat in Sunday's regional elections was a clear signal from the voters that they are angry with Gerhard Schroeder.

Angry about Germany's growing unemployment, its stagnant economy and the government's apparent failure to do anything about it.

But the humiliating election results also weaken the Chancellor within his own party. They were a reflection on his policies and his leadership.

There is, however, one issue where Gerhard Schroeder is likely to remain inflexible. And that is his outspoken opposition to a war against Iraq.

This was the first electoral test for Chancellor Schroeder's federal coalition government since it was narrowly returned to power in September.

The response by the German press is broadly that the Schroeder government got what it deserved: a slap in the face after four ineffective months back in power.

Broken election promises were also punished - tax rises, failure to reduce unemployment and delays in the modernising reforms long-awaited by German business.

Chancellor Schroeder says he will not resign over Sunday's miserable results, but he must take some decisive political action.

But Sunday's defeats mean it is harder for the government to get laws passed without backing from the opposition Christian Democrats.

Unemployment office
Schroeder's policies have not cracked unemployment
They now hold a comfortable majority in the Upper House of the German Parliament.

Paradoxically, though, a de facto "grand coalition" with the conservatives could offer the government a way forward in its so-far-botched reform programme.

The Christian Democrats are more likely than many members of Chancellor Schroeder's own Social Democrat Party to support the government¿s "modernising" reforms - such as the shake-up of the labour market.

Mr Schroeder says he will seek their co-operation from now on.

But what will be the price of such support?

We could see a scenario in German politics where only the most conservative policies of Chancellor Schroeder's centre-left government are passed.

Iraq question

There is, however, one issue where Gerhard Schroeder is likely to remain inflexible.

And that is his outspoken opposition to a war against Iraq.

It may not have been enough to divert regional voters' attention from his poor domestic record but this is one policy where the chancellor is in perfect tune with his voters.

This is indeed a lonely chancellor: abandoned by the voters, isolated from many international allies and German conservative politicians over his anti-war stance

More than three quarters of Germans says they are against a war on Iraq.

Watch out for a key session of the United Nations Security Council this Wednesday though.

If the United States presents enough evidence of Iraqi weapons to convince a majority to back a military strike, Germany's anti-war position may become untenable.

Should Germany still vote "No" or abstains in a Security Council vote, and if France decides to break ranks with Germany and vote "Yes", then Mr Schroeder's international isolation would be total.

This is indeed a lonely chancellor: abandoned by the voters, isolated from many international allies and German conservative politicians over his anti-war stance - and the crushing election defeat will not endear him either to many members of his own Social Democrat party.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Katya Adler in Berlin
"A double disaster for the Social Democrats"
Michael Naumann, Cheif Editor, Die Zeit
"Schroder will not be overthrown; he is not a quitter"
Friedbeit Pflueger, CDU Foreign Affairs Spokesman
"Gerhard Schroder is responsible for a double malaise of German politics"
See also:

03 Feb 03 | Media reports
03 Feb 03 | Business
08 Jan 03 | Europe
08 Jan 03 | Business
12 Nov 02 | Entertainment
07 Dec 02 | Europe
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