Blow For Merkel
Koch Slumps in Hesse Vote as Immigration Campaign Backfires
Hesse Governor Roland Koch saw support for his conservative Christian Democrats slump 12 points in Sunday's regional election as voters gave the thumbs-down to his controversial campaign on youth violence. The decline is a blow for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats suffered sharp losses in Sunday's Hesse state election as governor Roland Koch's campaign strategy to focus on
youth crime and immigration backfired.
Hesse Governor Roland Koch didn't fare so well in Sunday state elections.
The CDU slumped 12 percentage points to 36.8 percent, just 0.1 point above the center-left Social Democratic Party which advanced 7.6 points.
The decline is a blow for
Merkel, who had given Koch strong backing in his controversial campaign, and heralds a leftward shift in German politics that is likely to make it harder for her to govern.
The regional campaigning has soured relations in Merkel's grand coalition of CDU and SPD, and the SPD will feel reinvigorated by its success in Hesse. Analysts say tension in the coalition and upcoming regional elections will bring policymaking in Berlin to a standstill for the remainder of her term.
The Hesse election has led to a stalemate between the two big parties there and the picture has been confused by the success of the new Left Party, which won 5.1 percent of the vote. Complex coalition talks are now expected and it's unclear whether Koch will remain in power or be ousted by his SPD challenger Andrea Ypsilanti. One possible scenario would be a "grand coalition" pairing the SPD and the CDU, but Ypsilanti has said that such an alliance would be dependent on Koch's departure.
But a gloomy Koch, who only a few months ago seemed assured of winning a new term in the state he has ruled since 1999, sounded like the loser on Sunday. "We didn't mobilize our own supporters enough," Koch said. "This is not easy for me personally."
In a separate election in the north-western state of Lower Saxony, CDU Premier Christian Wulff held on to power, but also saw his support fall from five years ago. Wulff's victory had been widely expected, but the vote in Hesse was seen as an important test for Merkel ahead of the next federal election in September 2009.