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As Germany's Social Democrats decide who to put up against King Kohl in the autumn, Josef Joffe asks whether it matters who rules. As in Italy, politics is becoming a sideshow

By Josef Joffe   March 1998

In the middle of March the German Social Democrats will anoint their candidate for chancellor, the man supposed to dethrone King Kohl in the autumn. If they were like the Labour party in 1994-ravenously hungry for power after 15 years in opposition-they would give their blessing to Gerhard Schr?der, the premier of Lower Saxony.

Opinion polls have been telling us for months that Schr?der is the only Social Democrat who could outgun Helmut Kohl in October-by 16 points or so. So why hasn’t the German left nominated Schr?der already?

The reason has a faux French ring: Oskar Lafontaine-who actually looks…

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