Feelings mixed as German coalition shapes up

 

The Social Democrat Chancellor-elect, Mr Gerhard Schroder can look back with satisfaction at the three weeks since his triumph in Germany's general election. Opinion polls show both his popularity, and that of his party riding high.

But as the SPD and Greens wrapped up policy talks yesterday, the same polls showed Germans felt a sense of letdown over the policies the parties want to implement over the next four years.

"The formation of the red-green government has run smoothly, but there has been no sparkle," news weekly Der Spiegel wrote, summing up the mood. "Where is the new awakening, the new era?"

A group of trade unions, peace activists and ecologists issued an appeal to politicians not to shortchange voters. "The coalition talks . . . confirm our fears that promises of fundamental change will be broken," the group said.

To be fair, Mr Schroder (54) had sought to dampen hopes of dramatic change after 16 years of rule by the Chancellor, Dr Helmut Kohl. One of his campaign slogans was: "We won't do everything differently - but a lot better."

But an opinion poll for Spiegel by the Emnid institute showed that only 15 per cent of Germans believed Mr Schroder would fulfil even that modest promise.

Forty-five per cent said he would do so partly and 36 per cent said he would fail, the survey of 1,000 people found.

Polls also showed that many Germans have been disappointed by the talks on drawing up a coalition pact setting out a government programme. The deal is due to be signed tomorrow.

The centrepiece of the programme is a reform to cut income and corporate taxes by a net 10 billion marks (£4.25 million) by the year 2002.