Xenophobic words harm CDU in Hesse

Younger voters’ anger over CDU candidate Roland Koch’s harsh rhetoric and plan to combat youth crime was a blow to the centre-right party in Hesse’s state parliamentary elections on Sunday.

The CDU lost 12 percent of its votes, while the centre-left SPD gained 7.6 percent. Both parties will have 42 seats in the new state parliament after the CDU took 36.8 percent of the vote and the SPD took 36.7 percent.

“The era of an absolute majority for the CDU is over,” Andrea Ypsilanti, the SPD candidate for governor of Hesse told reporters. She also added that the elections show that “justice for all” can be the mantra of a winning campaign in Germany. Ypsilanti has historically been a left leaning member of the SPD and has been known for criticizing former Chancellor Schroeder over cuts in social benefits.

The election results have lead to a debate as to whether Koch will remain governor for long. The close results have lead to a stalemate, and the Left Party won 5.1 percent of Hessian votes. There has been a great deal of speculation as to if the SPD will leave its coalition with the CDU. Further speculation remains as to a possible coalition in the future between the Left Party and the SPD.

The election results were also a blow to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had supported Koch’s hardline stance against youth crime. Many observers see the results in Hesse as a sign that German voters are swinging leftward. Such a swing, observers feel, will strengthen the SPD nationwide and make it harder for Merkel to rule over her “grand coalition.” The grand coalition is the coalition of the SPD and CDU which was formed on the federal level in 2005 as a result of the previous federal elections.

“Koch’s defeats are a victory for democracy, because it shows that manipulations such as Koch’s xenophobic campaigns will not bring success,” Berlin’s mayor and SPD party member Klaus Wowereit told the German daily Tagesspiegel.

This election is seen as a warning signal for Angela Merkel that the next federal elections in 2009 could be a challenge.