European editorials on Monday commented on the results of the local elections in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The myth that North Rhine-Westphalia is a Social Democratic stronghold has been proven wrong, stated the Frankfurter Rundschau. It added that most of the cities now belong to the Christian Democrats again. But the daily noted that the conservatives must admit that they have lost many of the supporters since the CDU’s surprise victory in 1999. By dropping nearly seven points, the Christian Democrats were the clear losers in Sunday’s local elections, the paper concluded.
Britain’s The Guardian started off by saying Chancellor Gerhard Schröder suffered another humiliating election defeat in the country’s most populous state. However the daily added that pundits and pollsters were rapidly revising their analyses pointing out that Schröder’s coalition with the Greens showed signs of narrowing the gap on the CDU. The paper claimed this might have to do with voters realizing that the conservative could be even tougher in reforming the welfare state.
Milan’s Corriere della Sera described Sunday’s elections as the epilogue of this year’s political marathon. There were 14 elections across the country and nearly all of them delivered catastrophic results for the Social Democratic Party, due mainly, to Chancellor Schröder’s social and economic reforms, the paper said. But now he can breath a little easier because the political climate is changing, which is starting to result in negative consequences for Angela Merkel, the leader of the CDU, the daily observed.
Another Italian daily, La Repubblica, thought Merkel has to fight harder. It assessed that Chancellor Schröder is banking on two factors to get his party re-elected in 2006. One is an upturn in the economy. Two is the leadership crisis already unfolding in the CDU where Merkel isn’t the undisputed head anymore, according to the paper.
The long expected swing in the political pendulum, wrote the Financial Times in London, could make it harder for Angela Merkel to secure her party’s nomination as candidate for the chancellery despite her widespread grassroots support. Without strong victories at the polls, the paper said it’s going to be hard for her to contain the ambitions of the CDU’s strong-willed regional barons.
Le Soir in Brussels also sensed the political shift taking place in Germany. It commented that Sunday’s local elections followed along the lines of what happened in the state elections in Brandenburg and Saxony two weeks ago. It elaborated by explaining that voters are starting to feel that the Social Democrats are strong enough to win a third mandate against the opposition in 2006 and that labor market and social reforms are an inseparable part of the SPD government.