Still Skeptical, Germans See Hope in 'Red-Green' Coalition

The mood on Kurfrstendamm, Berlin's main shopping street, was upbeat just after Germany's federal elections Sunday. Even supporters of the defeated Christian Democrats appeared to welcome an overall change in the country after 16 years under Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Still, those who voted for Gerhard Schrder's victorious Social Democratic Party (SPD) express cautious optimism at how fast and how successfully his new government will be able to curtail Germany's high unemployment rate.

"I just wanted a change in government," says Tim Klopp, a student from western Germany. "I don't expect much more than from the previous government.

"It's not as if tomorrow there will be a million new jobs. It would be foolish to believe that," he says.

With the SPD and the environmentalist party, the Greens, together holding a 21-seat majority in the 669-seat Bundestag, or parliament, the two parties are set to begin negotiations by the end of the week toward forming what has been dubbed a "red-green" coalition.

For some Germans the prospect of a center-left government conjures up images of a return to a heavy-handed state.

"I think taxes will go up," says an entrepreneur from southern Germany, who only identifies himself as Manfred A. "Everything will get more expensive, and life for the average citizen will get harder."

Nevertheless, the owner of an electronics parts factory adds that a new government isn't necessarily a disaster. "I didn't vote for Kohl, I voted for the party," he says. "Maybe something will change now. Anything is better than this stagnation."

Other Christian Democratic supporters agree. "Sure we're disappointed," says Hubertus Stawenow, who runs a family-owned heating-and-plumbing firm in eastern Germany. "Maybe Kohl wanted too much: Both the common European currency and domestic job creation. You can't have it both ways."

Mr. Stawenow is optimistic that a Social Democratic-led government will pump more money into the economy to increase demand and promote jobs. Yet Germans remain skeptical.

Martina Haubrich, a student who voted for the Social Democrats, expresses some doubt. "Red-green is not perfect, but it's better than Kohl's government," she says. "Everyone knows that Schrder can sell himself well. I agree that one should be hesitant."

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