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Last Updated: Monday, 24 May, 2004, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Cautious welcome for new German president
Horst Koehler
Mr Koehler wants Germans to become more self-reliant

The German press is divided in its view of the country's new president, Horst Koehler, who was elected on Sunday.

Centre-right papers in particular think Mr Koehler can help persuade Germans of the need for economic reform, despite the post's largely ceremonial role.

Others speculate on what the election of Mr Koehler, who was backed by the conservative opposition parties, means for the troubled government of Gerhard Schroeder.

The centre-right Die Welt praises Mr Koehler's acceptance speech, which it says proved he wants to play an active role in Germany's "renewal".

"He appeared an enlightened patriot who genuinely loves his country and is not afraid to say so," the paper argues.

New impetus?

Germany's largest tabloid Bild is also enthusiastic, saying that "everyone is a winner in this election".

While seeing Mr Koehler's election as a boost for the conservative opposition, the paper believes Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder could also benefit.

If Koehler keeps his promises, Germany can look forward to a president who can give the country new impetus and be an excellent representative
Lausitzer Rundschau

"Koehler is a credible supporter of Schroeder's reform policy," it says.

The eastern German Thueringer Allgemeine, agrees. It says that Chancellor Schroeder will be relieved he will no longer be alone in trying to persuade his reluctant party to accept painful economic and social reforms.

"This can only be good for the country."

The eastern German Lausitzer Rundschau also likes what it sees, and thinks the new president could boost Germans' confidence.

"If Koehler keeps his promises, Germany can look forward to a president who can give the country new impetus and be an excellent representative," it says.

But the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau is more sceptical.

"It is still completely uncertain," it says, whether Mr Koehler "will be a strong figure who unites the country, or one who divides it."

"So far, he has had nothing to say on the subject of social justice," it adds warily.

'Mediator and conciliator'

The Mannheimer Morgen warns the new president against taking sides in any political debate.

One should not imagine that his election means Germans have adopted the IMF's ideology as their own. For that, he does not have enough legitimacy

"Koehler's predecessors always considered themselves to be mediators and conciliators as well," it writes.

The left-wing Tageszeitung is also cautious, pointing out that Mr Koehler, who used his acceptance speech to urge Germans to embrace globalisation, is a former head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

"One should not imagine that his election means Germans have adopted the IMF's ideology as their own," it says. "For that, he does not have enough legitimacy."


Papers also focus on the new president's likely impact on the two main parties' chances in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2006.

The Berliner Zeitung interprets Mr Koehler's victory as a "clear success" for Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel, who some tip to be the opposition's candidate for the campaign against Chancellor Schroeder and his Green allies.

The paper adds that Mr Schroeder could even be forced into early elections if the opposition gains a blocking majority in the upper house of parliament in next year's regional polls.

"The question is not whether Angela Merkel becomes Germany's first female chancellor, but when."

The regional paper Rheinpfalz Morgen agrees, saying that Mr Koehler's election hands the Christian Democrats and their Liberal allies an "important psychological advantage" and "could turn out to be a political masterstroke by Angela Merkel".

But the north-German regional paper Neue Presse says Ms Merkel's triumph was clouded by the fact that the defeated candidate backed by Mr Schroeder's Social Democrats, Gesine Schwan, gained some votes from the opposition camp.

"Merkel has passed an important test," the paper argues, "but it is not yet a sea-change."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The BBC's Tristana Moore
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