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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 05:39 GMT 06:39 UK
German press ponders political impasse

The inconclusive general election result leads Germany's newspapers to suggest that fresh polls or a grand coalition with new leaders may be the only way out of the political mess.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung says the election result has made it impossible for any party to form a stable government. "Germany has voted for the perfect stalemate, the greatest possible self-obstruction, total paralysis," the paper says.

It believes that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder intends to remain chancellor until his Social Democrats and the opposition Christian Democrats agree on a coalition headed by "two new figures", as the only alternative would be fresh elections.

The paper suggests that the chancellor is prepared to accept either outcome with "one goal" in mind: that of preventing the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Angela Merkel, from becoming chancellor.

Der Tagesspiegel also believes that Mr Schroeder would only be prepared to give up his claim to the chancellorship if Mrs Merkel were to do likewise.

"Merkel must make way, then he could go, too," the paper says, and "then it would also be easier for the parties to come to an agreement."

But it warns that for the time being the chancellor "does not want a grand coalition but a great clash".

Die Tageszeitung agrees that the only solution would be for Mr Schroeder and Mrs Merkel to make way for others.

"Then Schroeder would at least have stopped Merkel, and would thus have achieved a final triumph," the paper says.

Berliner Zeitung wonders whether the chancellor is aiming for fresh elections in the hope that they will provide him and his current coalition partner, the Greens, with a parliamentary majority.

But the paper warns that this would be a case of the government letting people vote "until it is happy with the result".

'Jamaica solution'

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung makes the case for a coalition between the centre-right Christian Union parties, the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens.

The paper acknowledges that none of these parties have made any preparations for what is widely dubbed the "Jamaica coalition" option, after the parties' colours - black, yellow and green.

But it suggests that it could be preferable to a grand coalition.

"Despite predictable fierce conflicts over energy policy or health insurance, a coalition of the Union parties, the FDP and the Greens could turn out to be more eager for reforms than a grand coalition of small steps."

But Frankfurter Rundschau favours a grand coalition over the "Jamaica" scenario.

The paper's main objection to a government including the Christian Union parties, the Free Democrats and the Greens is that voters did not anticipate such an option.

It argues that a grand coalition would provide a way out, "however unpleasant" it may be.

"It could work through a specific programme - on reforming federalism, the budget and taxes, cutting subsidies, care - which, in any case, requires a consensus between the camps," the paper says.

Vote against reform

Several papers interpret the election result as a vote against any radical social or economic reforms.

"The forces of reform have been punished at the ballot box," says Die Welt.

The paper believes, however, that deregulation is necessary to boost the economy.

"The question of who will eventually take over this mission is less important than that of the right policies."

The paper is open to the idea of Mr Schroeder remaining chancellor provided he becomes a reformer again "against his party".

"Perhaps in the end Germany... will have to be reformed from the left after all," it says.

Die Tageszeitung interprets the election result as a vote against "the Anglo-Saxon model".

"Neoliberal ideas have been voted out by a clear majority," the paper says.

"So much for the issue of reforms," says Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The paper argues that both Mrs Merkel and Mr Schroeder identified themselves with reforms, and that they have been punished for it.

"Life is not so bad here, after all, that most people would expect their circumstances to improve as a result of a fundamental reorganization of things," it says.


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