Hesse Governor Roland Koch suffered a 12 point slump in Sunday's state election and it's unclear whether he will be able to remain in office. His Christian Democrats (CDU) got 36.8 percent, just 0.1 point more than the Social Democrats (SPD) of challenger Andrea Ypsilanti, who managed an increase of 7.6 points.
German media commentators said the vote is a setback for Chancellor Angela Merkel and a slap in the face for Koch, who was punished for his controversial campaign focus on youth crime and immigrants. Koch and his party have led the state since 1999.
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Roland Koch has lost 12 percentage points. That is the good news to come out of this election. And it is a pretty clear message to the CDU. Koch's crude calculation didn't pay off. ... The fact that this nasty populism didn't bear fruit is definitely a victory for democratic culture. Mobilizing majorities by bashing minorities -- this conservative all-purpose weapon doesn't work any more. Let's see if CDU head office takes this lesson from Hesse to heart."
Mass-circulation daily Bild writes:
"The Hesse election must be a shock for Angela Merkel which will reverberate for a long time to come. The chancellor must ask herself how a left-wing member of the SPD, who was even sniggered at in her own party, managed to inflict so much damage on a political heavyweight like Roland Koch. Angela Merkel will have to examine whether she made mistakes herself."
The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:
"This was surely mainly an anti-Roland Koch election. But that motivation only reinforced the predominant leftward shift that has been going on in Germany for a long time. There's been a majority of left-wing parties in the Bundestag for a considerable amount of time now, except that they're not yet in a position to govern together -- just like in the Hesse state assembly now. At least the Left Party, which managed to scrape into the Hesse parliament, will prevent Koch from clinging to power with the help of the liberal Free Democrats. That is an achievement."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"In the end, the election was not decided by party or coalition preferences but by the social issues that were important to society and individuals. Ypsilanti had her breakthrough with the minimum wage issue, which Koch hoped to offset with the issue of youth violence. But many interpreted this as being disruptive to society."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"Roland Koch has reaped what he sowed. His aura is gone. He destroyed himself. A campaign as dirty as the one he led, still has to be won cleanly -- and clearly."
"Koch failed to deliver on his promised political successes and also made crude campaign mistakes. Although he had in fact found an important political topic with the issue of youth crime, he expressed it incorrectly and meanly, with the result that those who had been skeptical about Ypsilanti were no longer so skeptical."
"The effect of the election on the national political level can hardly be underestimated. The SPD is experiencing its resurrection."
-- Josh Ward, David Crossland, 10.30 a.m. CET