Huge Setback For Merkel In German Regional Election

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North-Rhine Westphalia SPD Leader Hannelore Kraft

North-Rhine Westphalia is Germany’s largest state, and it just dealt a serious political setback to Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union.

For background, the last NRW election resulted in a near-tie betwee the CDU and the center-left Social Democrats, led by Hannelore Kraft. But the Greens outpolled the libertarian Free Democrats, so a Red-Green coalition resulted even though it was one vote shy of a majority in the regional parliament. That was viable because the conveniently named far-left Left Party abstained from the vote of confidence. In the runup to this election, NRW was under pressure from Berlin to make steadier progress in reducing its budget deficit—much as Berlin has been pressuring the smaller independent nations of Europe. But the CDU lost big, posting what exit polls are indicating will be their worst result since World War II. The Red-Green coalition is set for a stable majority. And the Left Party, which has enormous ill-will with the Social Democrats, looks to be fading and has now been badly overtaken by the Pirate Party as the protest party of choice.

This doesn’t have any direct implications for the Eurozone debate, but combined with the collapse of the Dutch cabinet and François Hollande’s victory in France it illustrates that the political winds are shifting against the center-right consensus that’s been driving things for the past couple of years.