German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government was under pressure on Monday after suffering a drubbing in elections in her home state ahead of a key parliamentary debate on the latest eurozone rescue plan.
Her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) dramatically lost support, while her allies at the federal level, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), were turfed out of the legislature in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sunday.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) came top of the poll and will be able to choose whether to form a coalition government with the CDU or with the hard-line socialist Left party.
The Greens also scored a notable victory, winning representation to the state parliament for the first time. This means the Greens are now represented in all of the country's 16 regional assemblies, as well as at the federal level.
It was the fifth time in six state elections this year that Merkel's CDU has lost support. For the FDP, which scored just 2.7 percent of the vote, this was the fourth time this year the party was booted out of a state legislature. However, even the neo-Nazi NPD managed to win seats by winning six percent of poll marred by low voter turnout.
Voters appear to be worried by Merkel's management of the eurozone debt crisis and angry at internal squabbling within her coalition. According to an opinion poll released last week, four out of five Germans fear the current financial crisis will get worse and a large majority do not believe Merkel can do anything about it.
Newspapers in The Local’s media roundup on Monday explored the impact of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania poll both nationally and at the state level.
Berlin’s centrist daily Der Tagesspiegel said the Social Democrats had been the clear winners of this year’s series of state elections, but warned against assuming they would now effortlessly oust Merkel in the 2013 general election.
“The SPD is once again back on top, winning in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and plotting out its next victory in Berlin two weeks from now. The euphoric Social Democrats are already looking ahead towards September 2013. [But] a lot can happen in the coming 24 months. The SPD shouldn’t celebrate too soon; rather it should do its homework instead. In truth, the SPD put in a pretty average showing in super election year 2011.”
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung opined that the SPD’s strength was more the weakness of Merkel’s CDU.
“Do such (state) victories mean much for the federal level? At least in one way: The SPD can partner itself with everyone, but an alliance with The Left in a national election would be tantamount to a suicide mission.”
The Rostock-based regional daily Ostseezeitung said it had taken 20 years for the region to open up to the Greens’ message despite being heavily dependent on its natural beauty and tourism. But it voiced disappointment over the far-right extremist NPD winning seats in the state legislature of the economically depressed state on the Baltic Sea.
“That the NPD managed to stay in parliament hurts the image of the northeast and is a challenge to all democrats. But our state has become a little greener and a little less brown.”
However, Der Tagesspiegel said residents of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania needed to be more concerned about the far-right extremists in their midst.
“In a place that relies on tourism as its only economic factor, hatred of foreigners – aside from its general repulsiveness, could become a economic worry.”
The centre-left Süddeutsche Zeitung also said the continuing success of the neo-Nazi party in the northeast of Germany was deeply disturbing.
“The problem how to undermine support for this party remains elusive. It has a notable core of voters – a problem seen in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and in Saxony, where it was won seats for the second time in row. Not even dropping unemployment helped. Something is deeply wrong in a society when the NPD has greater success in a state election than the FDP.”