• Germany's news in English
 

State election hails rise of 'Merkel in Red'

Published: 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 The Conservative campaign made the party look "outdated" and backward-looking.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)

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
Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia
File photo: DPA

Wolf spotted in North Rhine-Westphalia

Camera traps have spotted a wolf for the second time in a month in North Rhine-Westphalia, the state environment ministry reported on Friday. READ  

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay
Paraguayan police on patrol in an area known to contain EPP rebels. File photo: DPA

German ranchers murdered in Paraguay

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin confirmed that two Germans living in Paraguay were kidnapped and killed earlier this week. READ  

AfD braces for busy conference weekend
"Vote AfD!" reads the flyover message. Photo: DPA

AfD braces for busy conference weekend

As leaders of the Germany's anti-Euro upstart party Alternative for Germany (AfD) prepare for its party conference this weekend, the potential for chaos is rising. READ  

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos
Snow in Oberharz. Photo: DPA

Sudden dose of winter causes traffic chaos

UPDATE: Two people were rescued from avalanches as a blast of winter has taken Germany by surprise, while snow and ice accounted for several traffic accidents across the country on Friday. READ  

BND collects 220 million phone records a day
Photo: DPA

BND collects 220 million phone records a day

Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) collects 220 million pieces of information about foreign phone calls and SMS every day, Zeit Online reported on Friday. READ  

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers
Photo: DPA

U-turn on minimum wage for foreign drivers

Germany temporarily hit the brakes Friday on applying its new minimum wage to foreign truck drivers transiting the country in a move welcomed by Poland, which vigorously opposed the system. READ  

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA

Crises make Germany EU foreign policy leader

Foreign policy think-tank the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) gave Germany top marks in its annual check-up of EU member states released on Thursday. READ  

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years
Photo: DPA

Prost! Beer sales hop up for first gain in 8 years

New figures released Friday by federal statistics office Destatis are numbers breweries can drink to, as German beer consumption saw its first year-on-year rise since 2006. READ  

Germany has thousands of uni spots open
Photo: DPA

Germany has thousands of uni spots open

New research published by Spiegel on Friday shows that there are thousands of university placesa unoccupied across the country, while certain hot spots cope with too much demand. READ  

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'
Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp at a press conference. Photo: DPA

Borussia coach admits to 'downward spiral'

Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp admits feeling the pressure as his side resume their fight to stay in Germany's top flight on Saturday at fellow Champions League side Bayer Leverkusen. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Business & Money
FATCA: 'The age of financial privacy is over'
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
The rise and spread of Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Photo: DPA
Politics
The Local's report from Pegida's largest ever demonstration.
Sponsored Article
Top-notch tech boosts bilingual schools
National
Six stories that will rock Germany this year
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Photo: DPA
National
What were your favourite news stories of 2014?
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
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

3,971
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd