Germans Oust Kohl, Elect Schroeder (FWD)

Mon Sep 28 00:17:13 PDT 1998

Results of the Germany MMP election on 27 Sep 1998.  Not sure how many wasted
votes.  AP is notorious in NOT making a simple list of votes versus seats for
the various parties.  Note the percentage turnout at the bottom.
Germans Oust Kohl, Elect Schroeder


.c The Associated Press 

BONN, Germany (AP) -- Gerhard Schroeder and his Social Democrats won national
elections Sunday, ushering in the first change of government Germany has seen
after 16 years of conservative rule under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the West's
longest-serving leader. 

The new, 54-year-old chancellor will be the first of his generation, rooted in
the leftist movements of the 1960s, to lead Europe's biggest nation. 

Throwing up his arms in a victory salute, Schroeder promised cheering
supporters he would keep pledges to fight unemployment -- this year's major
campaign issue -- as well as achieve long-awaited tax and economic reforms. 

``The Kohl era has come to an end,'' Schroeder proclaimed to the cheering
party faithful. ``Our task will be to thoroughly modernize our country and to
unblock the backlog of reform.'' 

The defeated Kohl will be remembered best as the chancellor who unified
communist East Germany with the West in 1990, after the fall of the Berlin

Schroeder, too, will have his shot at history as he oversees two monumental
changes next year: the government's return to Berlin, its prewar capital, and
the switch from the trusted German mark to the European common currency, the

Kohl, 68, looked tired and sad as he conceded defeat. 

``This is a hard evening for me, and for us all,'' Kohl told his supporters.
``... I wish Herr Schroeder the best of luck and a successful time in
office.'' He also announced he would not run for re-election as chief of his
party, likely making way for his protege, Wolfgang Schaeuble, to succeed him. 

Schroeder supporters streamed into the streets of Bonn, holding balloons and
chanting ``Kohl must go!'' Many voters have known no other chancellor but
Kohl, and the promise of change brought tears of joy at party headquarters. 

``Finally, finally. I have rarely been so happy,'' said Uta Tiedtke, 51,
dabbing her eyes as she stood among the revelers. ``My two children have never
known anything other than Kohl. This means the end of stagnation. We've been
waiting for this so long.'' 

Schroeder, the popular governor of Lower Saxony state, has tried to move his
traditionally leftist party toward the political middle to appeal to the
widest possible audience. His party's victory adds momentum to the wave of
center-left governments across Europe, after Britain's Tony Blair and France's
Lionel Jospin. 

Schroeder told the ARD television network that he would begin talks Monday on
building a coalition. His party won 41 percent of the vote, according to early
official results, giving it the right to form a government with Schroeder at
its head. The Christian Democrats won 35 percent. 

Kohl's government will continue in a caretaker role until a new coalition is
formed. There is no deadline under the German constitution. 

The new chancellor has said he hopes to govern with the environmentalist
Greens party, which won 6.7 percent. It was unclear, though, whether the two
were strong enough to form a stable majority in parliament. Schroeder would
not say if coalition talks would start with the Greens, who would have their
first shot at a role in government. 

Together, the two parties would have 334 seats in the 656-seat parliament, a
shaky six-vote majority that might not survive differences between the
sometimes radical Greens and the more pragmatic Social Democrats. 

Schroeder reiterated he would not consider including in his government the ex-
communist Party of Democratic Socialism, which won enough votes to stay in
parliament. Many in the west view the party as a troubling remnant of the
former communist East German state. 

The other option for Schroeder is to share power with the Christian Democrats
in a so-called ``grand coalition'' -- something Germany hasn't seen in almost
30 years. 

Kohl, however, saw no role for his party in the new government. 

``There is nothing more to say about this defeat. The voters have fully and
clearly decided for a Red-Green coalition,'' Kohl said, using the German
shorthand for the Social Democrats and the Greens. 

``This will carry us through the transition time into the new century,'' Kohl

Besides tackling grand projects as Germany enters the 21st century, Schroeder
has serious domestic problems to address during his four-year term. 

Unemployment, running above 10 percent, was the main campaign issue this year,
and Schroeder has pledged to combat it primarily by opening dialogue between
unions, industry and government officials. 

He also has vowed to see through tax reforms that would relieve average wage
earners, as well promising to restore modest social welfare programs cut by
the Kohl government in an effort to trim the budget. 

``We stand for inner security ... but also for continuity in foreign policy,''
Schroeder said in his victory speech. ``My most important job is the fight
against the scourge of unemployment.'' 

Kohl had sought an unprecedented fifth term on the strength of his image of
stability and clout with world powers at a time of economic turmoil in Russia
and ongoing conflict in the Balkans. 

One of the first tests of the new government will be foreign policy, as NATO
prepares for possible air strikes to quell fighting in the Yugoslav province
of Kosovo. The issue impacts Germany, which would participate in any military
action and where ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo are already seeking

The liberal Free Democrats also won seats in the 656-seat parliament with 6.2
percent of the vote. 

Turnout was 81.5 percent of the 60.5 million voters, up from 79 percent in

AP-NY-09-27-98 1821EDT 

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