Merkel’s CDU Defeated in Worst Postwar Result in Biggest State
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party was
defeated in Germany’s most populous state in an election that
helped the Social Democrats tighten their grip on the country’s
The SPD, the main opposition party nationally, increased
its vote share in today’s ballot in North Rhine-Westphalia,
enabling Prime Minister Hannelore Kraft to return to power at
the head of a government with the Greens in the state capital
Dusseldorf. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union fell to its
worst score since World War II.
The result is setback for Merkel after she headlined nine
campaign rallies in 27 days in North Rhine-Westphalia in a bid
to regain the state, the first her CDU lost in 2010 as the debt
crisis erupted and voters rebelled against bailing out Greece.
The SPD is now in power in 11 of Germany’s 16 states.
“This is a massive loss in local prestige for the party,”
Gerd Langguth, a Merkel biographer and professor of politics at
the University of Bonn, said by phone. Even so, Merkel “will do
her best to ignore the result. As long as her party is ahead in
federal voting patterns she can feel insulated from regional
North Rhine-Westphalia, with almost a quarter of Germany’s
82 million people and an economy bigger than Switzerland’s, is
Merkel’s biggest electoral test this year before the federal
vote in the fall 2013.
The chancellor began her campaign in April by attacking the
state government based in the capital Dusseldorf for running up
debt, contrasting that with her push to curb deficits in Germany
and across Europe. Yet she resisted turning the vote into a
referendum on her austerity drive, which polls indicate a
majority of Germans support.
“Sunday’s election is an important state election for
North Rhine-Westphalia, no more and no less,” she told the Ruhr
Nachrichten newspaper in comments published May 10.
For all her campaign efforts, Merkel’s CDU took 26 percent,
almost 9 percentage points less than its score at the last
election in May 2010, ZDF television projections showed as of
7:58 p.m. The result “exceeded our worst fears,” said Peter Altmaier,
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