European Elections: Germany - Third Way Is No Election Winner

Article excerpt

GERMAN SOCIAL Democrats braced themselves for Blairite upheaval yesterday, after their leader, spurred by a disastrous election result, vowed to nudge his party to the right.

"We expect hard confrontations," Chancellor Gerhard Schroder predicted. An internal reorganisation at Social Demo-crat headquarters is already under way, aimed at remnants of the traditionalists cast adrift by the resignation of Oskar Lafontaine earlier this year.

The new course was charted by a joint paper published last week by Mr Schroder and Tony Blair. Though its wording was sufficiently vague to minimise offence in Mr Schroder's hinterland, it still provoked an outcry among trade unionists and prominent left- wingers. Contrary to its original intentions, though, the paper probably aggravated the Social Democrats' defeat on Sunday. The party plunged to its worst result yet, finishing 18 points behind the Christian Democrats in the European elections. In local elections held in some parts of Germany, Mr Schroder's party fared just as dismally, with some stunning reverses in former heartlands. Yesterday, the Chancellor attributed the "heavy defeat" to the low turn- out and disappointment with his government's performance. …