• Germany edition
 
The Local's media roundup
State election hails rise of 'Merkel in Red'
Photo: DPA

State election hails rise of 'Merkel in Red'

Published: 14 May 2012 13:01 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 May 2012 13:01 GMT+02:00

Germans may be relatively resigned to Merkel's tough-love austerity policy in Europe, but voters in Sunday's elections in North Rhine-Westphalia - hastily re-branded as a referendum on Merkel - abandoned her party in droves for the pro-stimulus Social Democrats.

In what was the worst-ever result for Merkel's Christian Democrats in the western state, the CDU took just over 26 percent of the vote, compared with 39 percent for the main opposition SPD.

Commentators on Monday said the result sealed the downfall of Conservative Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, once tipped to succeed Merkel in the top job.

At the same time, it signalled the national rise of Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft, who German papers are now dubbing the Merkel of the left.

"Within eight weeks," wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "Röttgen has turned from a shiny politician who achieved much, wanted much more and dared to do anything, to a former chancellor candidate in-waiting."

Röttgen's campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia ran into trouble when he failed to commit to staying in opposition in the region if he lost Sunday's vote.

He later had to backtrack after reportedly irking party allies by saying the NRW vote was a referendum on Merkel's policy on Europe, in what the local paper Aachener Zeitung called a "last minute scramble" which smacked of "rhetorical bankruptcy."

"The CDU election campaign was a terribly ragged blend of unaddressed issues, unformulated messages and a candidate who was not in the least bit convincing."

"This mixture of the wrong strategy, the failure several times to give concrete answers and at times, arrogant pride, could not lead to success," wrote the paper.

Röttgen's gamble with making the election about Europe certainly backfired and could not come at a worse moment for Merkel. The dismal result for her party comes as national elections in Greece and France signalled a wave of protest against Merkel's austerity strategy for Europe.

And on Tuesday Merkel will host French president-elect Francois Hollande who campaigned on a pledge to renegotiate the Euro zone's fiscal pact for tighter budgetary rigour which Merkel says is crucial to economic recovery.

But the defeat is part of a wider crisis for the right, said the Westfälische Nachrichten. The Conservative campaign made the party look "outdated" and backward-looking.

Now, the paper said, the party would need to do some soul-searching after the defeat to find out whether their candidates "embody today and tomorrow, or yesterday."

That, said the Süddeutsche Zeitung was "what makes the scale of this defeat so bitter for the future of the [party], because Röttgen actually stands for a modern, enlightened, green-tinged CDU."

Following his downfall, the paper predicted "the Conservatives in the party will gain the upper hand."

And the Conservatives are misjudging the current rise of "semi" left-wing parties – the Social Democrats, Pirates, Greens and the Left – endangering their chances, the paper said.

"A CDU ... that is still against the minimum wage and pays women a bonus to stay at home has poor chances in a Germany with a growing semi-left majority," read the commentary.

Meanwhile, Social Democrat incumbent NRW state president Hannelore Kraft has emerged as a fighting force in German politics, who some say could even rise above her male party colleagues to stand against Merkel in national elections next year.

"Hannelore Kraft is a Merkel in red," wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau. Although their political positions on debt are polar opposites - unlike Merkel, Kraft doesn't have a problem with the government getting into debt - the paper argued the "two women have a lot in common."

Both have a "human, even motherly charisma" and do not make voters feel "insecure, but try instead to give them security in uncertain times." The politicians "let others lead the heated debates" and "inspire trust," said the commentary.

"Politicians like Merkel and Kraft chime so well with many people's attitude to life." observed the Berliner Zeitung.

"It will happen, is their central message - we're sorting it out." Where the problems are serious and need action, say the women, "we will remain cautious, not risk too much."

And according to the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung in Heidelberg, Kraft has the potential be able to reconnect her party to its traditional values and grassroots ideals of social equality.

Kraft "just might be [the one to] strengthen the Social Democrats belief in their own values. Since Sunday in NRW the SPD has become a party of mass appeal once again."

Kraft is now likely to form a coalition with the Greens in the state parliament who scored 11.5 percent.

The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

19:01 May 14, 2012 by McM
If this is a default referendum result of a strong German economy and very low unemployment, I wonder what the German voters would do in hard times. The fatherland is rapidly becoming the motherland. Can't wait to see the next round of voter mauling .
23:39 May 14, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
A good hint on what is to come up after the next German election.

Take a good look at Merkel, because I am very sure that she is actually running her final laps as chancellor. Good or bad? Time will tell.
20:56 June 11, 2012 by Leo Strauss
Bought and paid for conservative and globalist Merkel handing the baton off to bought and paid for globalist faux socialist Steinbrück, just like in France.
06:44 June 12, 2012 by DOZ
I guess Merkel isn't that important. No Camel offerings.
Today's headlines
Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?
A Russian tank at a military parade in Moscow in May. Photo: DPA

Has Merkel's Russia policy failed?

A foreign policy expert in Chancellor Angela Merkel's own party said on Thursday Russia was fighting a "war" in Ukraine. Despite dozens of phone calls to President Vladimir Putin, Merkel's policy of restraint seems to have completely failed. READ  

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos
Passengers look at messages about the damage this morning at Ostkreuz. Photo: DPA

Arson attack causes Berlin train chaos

Travellers in southeast Berlin can expect disruption on the S-Bahn until Sunday morning after an arson attack damaged a cable duct on Thursday morning, affecting services on six lines. READ  

Germanwings' pilots will strike on Friday
Photo: DPA

Germanwings' pilots will strike on Friday

UPDATE: Pilots at Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings are set to strike on Friday, after talks between management and a union broke down on Thursday. READ  

Germany posts weaker job figures
Photo: DPA

Germany posts weaker job figures

Unemployment in Germany remained steady in August, official data showed on Thursday, as clouds continue to build over Europe's biggest economy and the eurozone as a whole. READ  

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire
The facade of the Mevlana mosque was badly damaged by smoke from the fire. Photo: DPA

Police suspect arsonists were behind mosque fire

UPDATE: Investigators now believe a fire which damaged a mosque in Berlin earlier in August was started deliberately. READ  

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa
The Haus am Bogensee. Photo: DPA

Berlin struggles to sell former Goebbels villa

After two failed attempts, Berlin is trying again to sell the sprawling estate and villa once known as Joseph Goebbels' illicit love nest, but so far, nobody's buying. READ  

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis
Cem Özdemir empties a bucket of water over his head next to a cannabis plant. Photo: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen

Greens boss films ice challenge with cannabis

What looked like just another ALS ice bucket challenge video has become a political statement after the leader of Germany's Green Party Cem Özdemir confirmed he filmed his clip next to a cannabis plant. READ  

What's next for East Berlin?
Photo: Gehry Partners LLP/Timo Hermann - bbz landschaftsarchitekten/DPA/Living Bauhaus/DPA

What's next for East Berlin?

In the second of a two-part series on Berlin’s future, The Local looks at the major developments in former East Berlin. From palaces to bridges, what’s next for the East? READ  

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq
A transport plane which carried German aid in Erbil. Photo: DPA

Germany sends six soldiers to Iraq

Germany has sent six soldiers to northern Iraq to coordinate deliveries of aid and military equipment to Kurds fighting Islamist terror group Isis. READ  

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million
Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most luxurious addresses in the city. Photo: DPA

Berlin's most expensive flat sells for €5.7 million

A Berlin property firm has set a city-wide record for the most expensive apartment sold, closing a deal for €5.7 million on a centrally-located penthouse. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Shutterstock
Gallery
Ten of the oddest things found by German border control
Photo: Gerkan, Marg and Partners/Tegel Projekt GmbH/J. Mayer
Berlin
How will Berlin look in five years' time?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The best of Berlin's mayor Klaus Wowereit in 14 pictures
Photo: DPA
Politics
Germany sends burgers and sausages to Kurds
Photo: Matthias Kock
National
Tribes, ties and a movie: A German's Afghan life
Photo: DPA
Gallery
10 things to do before summer in Germany is really over
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,497
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd