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News Briefs II

Kohl Confronts Disillusionment In Germany's East

The Washington Post
BRANDENBURG, Germany

The boos and whistles began raining down on Helmut Kohl as soon as he mounted the stage in the market square of this dilapidated industrial city. When the chancellor of German unity began reciting his achievements, the chorus of catcalls nearly drowned out his amplified voice.

"Kohl must go! Kohl must go!" chanted many protesters in the crowd of 1,000 people, who had come to a campaign rally Thursday night to hear Europe's longest-serving leader make his pitch for an unprecedented fifth term after 16 years in office. As police in riot gear shoved unruly demonstrators behind barricades, other spectators jeered and waved signs saying: "Thanks for 20 percent unemployment" and "Enough with your broken promises!"

As he tours eastern Germany courting votes for the Sept. 27 national election, Kohl is confronting an ugly mood of disillusionment that has jeopardized his hopes for another comeback victory. Although some polls indicate he has narrowed the gap with Social Democratic rival Gerhard Schrder to as little as 3 percentage points, the hostility Kohl encounters at nearly every stop in the east suggests he is making no headway in recapturing the allegiance of Germany's most fickle swing voters.

Rampant despair over widespread joblessness and embittered dismay with capitalist society have compelled many easterners to turn against Kohl with a vengeance. Many politicians and commentators now believe Kohl's Christian Democrats could tumble to third place in the east, behind Schrder's Social Democrats and the former Communists known as the Party of Democratic Socialism.