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Main focus of Monday, May 14, 2012

SPD triumphs over Merkel's CDU

Hannelore Kraft remains state premier in North Rhine-Westphalia. (© dapd)

The Social Democrats (SPD) have won a clear victory in the election of the new parliament in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia with 39.1 of the vote. With just 26.3 percent Merkel's Christian Democratic Party (CDU) had its worst ever result in this key state. The election is a blow for Angela Merkel and endangers her austerity policy, some commentators write, while others believe the chancellor will emerge unscathed from the debacle.

Lidové noviny - Czech Republic

Chancellor will survive the defeat

Elections in Germany's most densely populated state, North Rhine-Westphalia, have always been of key significance for the Federal Republic, but Sunday's vote won't hurt the chancellor, the conservative daily Lidové noviny writes: "Whereas seven years ago the SPD defeat was the beginning of the end for then chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Angela Merkel will survive the debacle suffered by her CDU on Sunday unscathed. Not only because Merkel - unlike Schröder - doesn't have an agreement with Russian President Putin over a cozy place on the Gazprom management. Merkel is not subject to any such inner-party pressure. The example of the SPD, which still hasn't come up with a viable replacement for Schröder yet, is sufficient warning. But above all Merkel has a firm grip on the complex situation in Europe and the German economy. Merkel and the SPD are essentially in agreement regarding European policy. They would have no problem forming a grand coalition. ... Merkel will remain chancellor and the EU can breathe a sigh of relief." (14/05/2012)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

State election threatens Merkel's austerity

Encouraged by the victory in North Rhine-Westphalia, the social democrats (SPD) may now step up their resistance to Chancellor Angela Merkel and her European austerity policy, the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung fears: "In Düsseldorf a policy model has won out that is diametrically opposed to Merkel's austerity course for the EU. Early new elections were necessary in North Rhine-Westphalia because the State Constitutional Court had applied the brakes on the SPD-Green coalition government's excessive new debts. Nevertheless state premier Hannelore Kraft was re-elected with a convincing show of support. It seems many Germans have also had enough of the appeals for austerity. For the SPD, which had lent its support to Merkel's euro bailout policy in the past, the temptation to cast itself as the financial policy alternative is growing. The chancellor is in for some difficult months on the home front, too, now." (14/05/2012)

La Stampa - Italy

Merkel's enemy in her own country

The election in North Rhine-Westphalia was a real debacle for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her austerity policy, the liberal daily La Stampa comments delightedly: "And now what, Frau Merkel? The clear victory for the SPD-Green Party coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia is no 'normal defeat' because the CDU has not just been defeated in the state parliament election; also at the national government level the red-green political line now represents a genuine alternative. The opposition is gaining support with the very growth policy branded by Merkel as 'growth on credit'. And by taking this stance Merkel is also attacking the tentative moves of the EU countries to relax the stringent austerity dictates. But now Merkel is facing the enemy in her own country. The time has come for the SPD to overcome its exaggerated timidity vis-à-vis the federal government."   (14/05/2012)

El País - Spain

Election defeat for chancellor, too

The crushing defeat suffered by the CDU in the election in the key German state of North Rhine-Westphalia could have an impact on Merkel's Europe policy, writes the left-liberal daily El País, pointing to the fate of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder: "North Rhine-Westphalia is so important in German politics that the defeat suffered by the SPD there in 2005 anticipated the result of the general elections, paving the way for Angela Merkel. What is happening now needn't automatically have the same consequences, but it is a warning to Angela Merkel, scheduled to meet the new French President François Hollande next Tuesday, who is determined to renegotiate the rules in the Eurozone. This is all unfolding in the context of the complicated political situation in Greece following the parliamentary elections there and Italy's open desire to seek a more balanced option somewhere between austerity and growth." (14/05/2012)

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