“Tea Party’s” In Germany?…Or, Against The “New World Order”…Or Both!

Monday, May 10, 2010
By Paul Martin

German voters deliver poll blow to Merkel amid discontent over aid to Greece

Roger Boyes
May 10, 2010

Angela Merkel appeared to have suffered a blow last night when her Christian Democratic Party recorded its worst result in crucial regional elections.

Exit polls in North RhineWestphalia — Germany’s most populous region with 18 million inhabitants — showed the Christian Democrats winning barely 34 per cent of the vote, and therefore likely to lose control of the regional government. Popular discontent about the German Chancellor’s aid package for Greece has had an impact on support.

The Social Democrats, her main rival, seemed to have the edge last night with 35 per cent of the vote.

If early polls translate into actual seats North Rhine-Westphalia could be led by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, who recorded their best result, with about 12 per cent.

The region, which takes in the old industrial area of the Ruhr, is currently led by Jürgen Rüttgers in partnership with the Free Democrats. Mr Rüttgers was once seen as a possible challenger to Ms Merkel within the Christian Democratic Party.

There are expectations that the Free Democrats will win about 6.5 per cent of the vote in the region.

The alliance between the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats — the German equivalent of a Con-Lib Dem pact — mirrors the government line-up overseen by Ms Merkel in Berlin.

Last night’s exit polls were too close to make a definitive call but most commentators agreed that the Christian Democrats — even if they edged ahead of the Social Democrats — would not be able to form a working government. If that were the case the immediate effect would be to remove the Christian Democrat-Free Democrat majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament. That would derail many Government projects, from an overhaul of the tax system to extending the life of nuclear power stations.

To move any significant legislation through parliament the Chancellor would then have to strike deals with the opposition, the Social Democrats.

“North Rhine-Westphalia was always an omen for what happens in national politics,” said Karl-Rudolf Korte, a professor of political science. Pundits were, therefore, speculating that the election could mark the zenith of the Chancellor’s power.

She won the general election in September with what seemed like a dream team with the Free Democrats, and was determined to shape a centre-right Government. However, coalition talks proved more difficult than expected, with day-to-day politics increasingly disrupted by economic crisis management, and she now faces a parliamentary blockade.

To make matters worse, questions are increasingly being posed about the fitness of Wolfgang Schäuble, her Finance Minister and the Christian Democrat linchpin of her Cabinet.

Yesterday in Brussels he had to be taken to hospital because of an allergic reaction to medication. Mr Schäuble has, in the midst of a eurozone crisis, been in and out of hospital for much of the year. He has been in a wheelchair since an attempt on his life 20 years ago and has been suffering from a badly healed wound, a long-term effect of his paralysis. Many key meetings have been taken by his deputies.

His steadying effect on Cabinet discussions has been increasingly absent, exposing Ms Merkel to attacks.

Since agreeing an aid package for Greece a week ago the Chancellor’s personal popularity has plunged by six percentage points. The Christian Democrats, even when taking unpopular actions, could in the past always count on the popularity of Ms Merkel to buoy their results. That is crumbling fast.

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