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Germany

Coalition Government Agreed in German State of Hesse

After 12 months of caretaker rule, a new regional cabinet has been selected in the German state of Hesse, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats won a significant majority two weeks ago.

Roland Koch (CDU) and Joerg-Uwe Hahn of the Free Democratic Party FDP, shake hands during a news conference in Wiesbaden

CDU's Koch, right, and FDP's Hahn were happy to sign the coalition agreement

From Feb. 5, a coalition government between the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) will take over, led by conservative Roland Koch.

Hesse, one of Germany's most prosperous states where the banking centre of Frankfurt is located, has been administered by a caretaker government since inconclusive elections in January 2008.

The CDU, who returned a majority of 37.2 percent in elections on Jan. 18, will hold seven of the state's ministries, while three go to the FDP, who increased their share of the vote to 16.2 percent.

Results in Hesse in the first of five regional elections this year, are being viewed as a possible indicator ahead of general elections scheduled for Sept. 27.

A success formula

German flags on the Bundestag building in Berlin

The German conservatives are hoping to replicate the Hesse model in Berlin

Koch recommended the CDU-FDP coalition as a successful formula, saying it negated a presumption that Germans have a natural tendency to lean left.

"Now we have a strong civil majority, which makes us an example for Berlin," he said, alluding to the national polls later in the year.

The fact that it took just 10 days to form a coalition government, he said, showed that the two parties could work smoothly together.

Hesse's results, however, are also viewed as a vote of no confidence in the state's Social Democratic Party (SPD), whose former leader Andrea Ypsilanti broke an election pledge in November by going into coalition with the radical Left Party.

The Left Party, which at the time was Ypsilanti's only ticket to power, is viewed with suspicion by much of the electorate as it has its roots among former East German communists.

When Ypsilanti proposed the coalition, which was also to include the Greens, four dissidents within the SPD jumped ship, ultimately clearing the way for January's elections.

Historic low

Andrea Ypsilanti

SPD's Ypsilanti is seen by many as the main culprit of the party's dramatic losses in Hesse

Hesse's SPD, smarting from its historic low of 23.7 per cent at the polls, has begun meanwhile with an internal reorganization which sees Thorsten Schaefer-Guembel take over as chairman.

He had contested the polls as a relatively unknown candidate, bearing the weight of electoral disappointment at his party's performance over the previous 12 months.

With an eye on state elections in 2014, Schaefer-Guembel said, "We have got five long, difficult and work-intensive years ahead of us."

The SPD's national chairman Franz Muentefering denied that Hesse's so-called black-yellow coalition between CDU and SDP augured a similar result on the national stage.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Muentefering said there was insufficient support for a black-yellow coalition.

Instead, he said, the SPD is aiming for a ruling coalition with the Greens, which could be expanded to include the FDP.

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