France moves left while West Berlin challenges Schmidt

It was a challenging Sunday for West Germany's Chancellor Schmidt. His politically congenial European colleague, President Giscard d'Estaing, was defeated by Socialist Francois Mitterrand. This left Mr. Schmidt the task of developing an effective working relationship with France's first left-of-center leader in more than two decades. And the Chancellor's own Social Democratic Party was buffeted from both left and right in a municipal election in West Berlin, where it had been entrenched for decades. This heightened the task of maintaining Mr. Schmidt's coalition leadership at a time when a decline in personal popularity polls has followed his firm election mandate of last fall.

But any echoes beyond the special circumstances of the city will depend particularly on what happens between now and next month when the Berlin parliament is to decide on a mayor. The situation is politically tangled.

The winning Christian Democrats did not get a majority, and their leader, Richard von Weizsacker, was said to be looking for support from the small, divided Free Democratic Party. The problem for the Social Democrats --have relied on coalition with the Free Democrats in Berlin as well as in Bonn. If the Free Democrats should now switch to the Christian Democrats in Berlin, the move could encourage some Free Democrats who have been wanting to split from the Social Democrats on the federal level.

Though belonging to the conservative Christian Democrats, Mr. von Weizsacker is believed to be not all that far from Mr. Schmidt's center-right Social Democratic politics. So the ideological wrench would not be great. Yet he would represent a change from the recent scandal-ridden aura of the Social Democrat-Free democrat coalition.

The vote for the Christian Democrats this week was no doubt in part a vote for more "law and order" in the midst of housing problems complicated by the presence of squatters who have aroused public criticism. At the same time, the Social Democrats and Free Democrats lost votes to the so-called Alternative List Party on the left. This group has been backing the squatters and taking positions against NATO and in favor of cutting back allied military forces in West Berlin.

It is such echoes that Mr. Schmidt has to listen for on the national political scene. The left wing of his own party is increasingly pressing him to soften his stand on more theater nuclear weapons for Europe and stiffen his stand on obtaining arms control agreements between Moscow and the West. The closeness of his relations with the United States becomes an issue. And now there is the complication of not being sure whether Mr. Mitterrand, though no less anti-Soviet, will join him as Mr. Giscard d'Estaing did. Ye s, a challenging Sunday for Mr. Schmidt.

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