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German Elections Special

It all started with the devastating defeat of the Social Democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia; after 39 years in power, they lost the state elections on May 22 to the CDU. With 37.1 percent of the vote (5.7 percent less than in 2000), the SPD had its worst election results in the state in 50 years. At the same time the defeat marked the end of the last state government coalition of the SDP and the Green Party.

Two things followed: Chancellor Gerhard Schröder immediately declared that he wanted to schedule new elections in the autumn of this year. Following a self-initiated parliamentary vote of non-confidence in his leadership, Schröder now awaits German President Köhler's decision on whether elections can be held this fall. And in their anticipation, a new leftist alliance has been founded, the Linkspartei, bringing together the PDS (successor party to the East German communist party) and the WASG (the West German Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice). Polls show the new alliance could win ten percent of the vote.

The probable fall election has stirred up German politics in a major way: What will become of the labour-oriented SPD? Will the Linkspartei replace the Greens as Germany's third strongest party? And above all: What do the conservatives want? We have put together a collection of articles.

The last rock 'n' roller of German politics
Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister and figurehead of the Green Party, has announced that he will be stepping back from the political front line with the end of the red-green government. In an interview with the taz, Fischer reflects on what this means for his party, his country and himself.
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What was Schröder on?

There was something surreal about Gerhard Schröder's appearence on national television last night. Although his party was second in the polls, Schröder saw the victory quite clearly as his own. And anyone who saw matters differently, an idiot. Arno Widmann asks the question that is on the minds of many Germans today: what was Schröder on?
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Indulging a penchant for paradox
What do you get when you cross Left and Right? Gerhard Schröder the double paradox: a chancellor who backs social protest against his own policies, and a ruler who deprives himself of power in a bid to reclaim it. By Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
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Standing in file
Tanja Dückers writes a huffy retort to Eva Menasse's recent claim that German writers' refusal to take a public stance in the federal election campaign reflects opportunism.
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Writers! Break free of your routine!
Why I'm getting involved in the current federal election campaign. By Eva Menasse
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Sighing, sweating, screeching
The run-up to the German federal elections is awash with blood, sweat and tears as Schröder, Merkel and Co. give their all. But the voters aren't having any of it. By Jörg Lau
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Merkel's a total cutie!
Christoph Schlingensief's controversial "Parsifal" is showing at the Wagner Festival for the second year running. He talks to Tina Hildebrandt and Stephan Lebert about hero impersonators in politics, zombies in Bayreuth and pre-election Germany.
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The big lie

Sociologist Ulrich Beck explains why German politicians' idea of full employment is an illusion and why Kafka's works belong to the classics of sociology.
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What do the conservatives want?
If Germany's conservatives win the coming elections in September they'll be more powerful than ever before. But what do they actually want? By Gustav Seibt
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Who are Germany's new young conservatives?
Now that Gerhard Schröder has admitted failure to himself and the rest of the world, German conservatives are being summoned back from political Siberia and pushed into the spotlight. But are they even still alive? By Mariam Lau
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Writers warn about Linkspartei
A group of German writers have signed a public condemnation against what it sees as dangerously populist sentiments behind the new 'Linkspartei'.
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Merkel's new middle
The Germany that makes the headlines is one of hedge-fund 'locusts' and burgeoning numbers of unemployed. Don't believe the hype: the upcoming German federal elections will be fought out in the middle. But unless the Germans stop expecting to be spoon fed by the state, and get proactive, little will be gained by a change of government. By Paul Nolte
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The Berlin Republic
So cunning is history: The cornerstones of the Berlin Republic – the departure from the social market economy, the rediscovery of war, the mistrust of the state for its citizens, the historicisation of the Holocaust – were laid by the West German 68ers. An attempt by a member of the old German Federal Republic to come to terms with the country he lives in. By Arno Widmann
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Loveable losers in the Ruhrpott
The surprising defeat of the SPD in the state elections in North-Rhine Westphalia has set a process in motion that will probably result in new federal leadership in Germany. Writer and comedian Frank Goosen describes in an interview what his fellow Ruhrpotters think about this, if anything at all.
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