German papers worry about the future of social and economic reform in the wake of the inconclusive Bundestag election.
Pre-election polls suggested Angela Merkel would be the clear winner
Some papers see the result as a personal setback for Christian Democrats' (CDU) leader Angela Merkel, though others suggest the future may yet belong to her.
There is little enthusiasm for a 'grand coalition' between the CDU and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD).
The business paper Handelsblatt ran the headline "Coalition chaos in Berlin".
"A remarkable election campaign has ended with a fatal result for Germany," it says.
"Never before in post-war German history has a Bundestag election been so clearly about a decision for or against further economic reforms", it adds.
But after the elections it is difficult to imagine a reform scenario for Germany, the paper goes on.
Although economic restructuring will continue, it says, "things cannot move forward without political support".
"We cannot afford to stand still," the paper warns. "Courageous politicians in the next government coalition will have to fight to ensure that even the slightest scope for reforms is utilised."
A victory for Mrs Merkel had seemed "in the bag" a few weeks ago, the Berliner Zeitung says.
But, it says, Mrs Merkel "couldn't do it" and missed her chance.
She will now have forced upon her "precisely the sort of coalition she had wanted to avoid" - a grand coalition between the CDU and SPD.
Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung describes the result as a "catastrophe" for the CDU.
It signifies, the paper argues, "the end of Angela Merkel's chancellorship before it even started".
"Rarely has a presumed election winner been so disgraced," it adds, saying the defeat has hit the party all the harder because it was unexpected.
Angela Merkel may have expected too much of the electorate, writes the Frankfurter Rundschau.
Not satisfied that Germans should merely recognise the need for reform, "she also expected people to want change".
But Germans are torn between "the recognition that change is necessary to maintain the social fabric" and the determination to salvage what they have, it adds.
Neither the CDU nor the SPD succeeded in tackling these two "justified needs". It is doubtful whether a government formed "under such uncertain circumstances" can survive four years, it warns.
After you, Frau Merkel
Conservative daily Die Welt wonders if Germans really recognise the reform crisis in their country, or prefer to "block out" such issues as unemployment, debt, inadequate education and social insurance problems from their minds.
What they need now, it adds, is a political leadership that has finally "made the leap from recognising the problem to implementing solutions".
The same paper believes however that the surprisingly good performance by the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) does perhaps suggest a certain readiness for reform.
"Germany is confronted by big problems which require leadership and difficult decisions," it says, adding that a "strangely fascinating" alliance of CDU, FDP and Greens cannot be ruled out.
The top-selling daily Bild searches for a way out of the "chaos".
"Who will rule Germany now? Are new elections the only way out of this chaotic result?" the paper asks.
But in its editorial, the paper also believes a coalition of CDU, FDP and Greens could do the trick and push the necessary changes forward.
An editorial in Berliner Zeitung likewise gives Angela Merkel the benefit of the doubt.
"The voters have spoken, but what they have said is not easy to understand," it says. Therefore, one of the leaders should take the initiative.
"That is Angela Merkel. She is not in a strong position but she has right of way. After you, Frau Merkel."
Hedging its bets, tabloid newspaper Bild Zeitung splits its front page with a top picture of Angela Merkel and the greeting "Good morning, Chancellor". Turn the paper upside down and you find a picture of Gerhard Schroeder and the words "Good morning, Chancellor".
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