• 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 The Conservative campaign made the party look "outdated" and backward-looking.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
Robots woo crowds at Hannover trade fair
Photo: DPA

Robots woo crowds at Hannover trade fair

Collaborative robots and intelligent machinery may have wowed the crowds at this year's Hannover Messe, but experts see German industry as having some way to go towards incorporating them on factory floors in what could become the fourth industrial revolution. READ  

Thousands protest EU-US trade talks
Photo: DPA

Thousands protest EU-US trade talks

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Europe on Saturday to oppose the world's biggest free trade pact between the US and European Union. READ  

EU-US trade talks prompt German ire
Photo: DPA

EU-US trade talks prompt German ire

In much of Europe any mention of TTIP might receive a blank stare, in Germany the proposed US-EU free trade pact is likely to prompt a volley of angry words. READ  

Auschwitz expert slams Nazi justice record
Photo: DPA

Auschwitz expert slams Nazi justice record

Oskar Gröning, 93, a former Nazi known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz", goes on trial in Germany on Tuesday in what could be the last Nazi war crimes trial while an expert calls the country's judicial record 'miserable'. READ  

Turkish Airlines: married pilots are safer pilots
Photo: DPA

Turkish Airlines: married pilots are safer pilots

The general manager of Turkish Airlines has urged single pilots to marry, after the Germanwings tragedy blamed on a pilot with psychological problems. READ  

Germany and Greece
'It hurts when Germans call Greece a failed state'
Thanasis Glavinas outside one of the German parliament's buildings. Photo: Private

'It hurts when Germans call Greece a failed state'

With the war of words – and cashflows – between Greece and Germany showing no sign of dying down, The Local meets one young Greek who's come to see what the Germans have to teach about running a country successfully. READ  

Interior Minister wants quicker deportations
'Loitz doesn't need any asylum seekers' reads the graffiti. Photo:DPA

Interior Minister wants quicker deportations

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called on Friday for state governments to speed up deportations of failed asylum applicants, in the latest round in a war of words between the federal government and the states. READ  

VW CEO survives despite departure rumours
Photo: DPA

VW CEO survives despite departure rumours

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has dodged a broadside from company chairman Ferdinand Piech which many thought would unseat him from the troubled car maker. Instead, the steering committee has offered him an extension to his contract. READ  

Bayern doctor quits in spat with Guardiola
Tension on the touchline: Guardiola, Schweinsteiger and Müller-Wohlfahrt Photo: DPA

Bayern doctor quits in spat with Guardiola

The resignation of iconic club doctor Hans-Willhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt on Thursday evening threatens to unleash internal chaos at Bayern Munich after their Champions League humiliation at the hands of FC Porto. READ  

Deutsche Bahn flirts with drivers' strike deadline
An InterCity train in Hannover's main train station. Photo: DPA

Deutsche Bahn flirts with drivers' strike deadline

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn has until 3 pm on Friday to respond to demands from the Train Drivers' Union (GDL) for a "reasonable provisional result" in talks over pay, conditions and union representation. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
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

7,240
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd