SIMONIS THROWS IN THE TOWEL
It's official: Heidi Simonis of the SPD said she would no longer seek re-election to the office of Minister President of Schleswig Holstein. Gerhard Schroeder's right-hand man, Franz Munterferring, called the events a "disaster."
Schroeder's Social Democrats Dealt Another Embarrassing Defeat in Schleswig-Holstein
The entire Simonis episode represents a particularly embarrassing defeat for Gerhard Schroeder's SPD, which has badly lost one state election after the other since 2002 and has been unable to stem the tide of record-level, double-digit unemployment, with well over 5 million Germans out of work.
Et tu Brutus? Even Der Spiegel can no longer avoid cover stories strongly critical of Schroeder. This cover from last week is a famous Schroeder quote from his first election campaign: "If we don't noticeably sink the unemployment rate, then we don't deserve to be re-elected." ---Gerhard Schroeder, 1998
It is important to note that the news of Simonis' re-election flop has already completely overshadowed Schroeder's major speech on economic reforms and fighting unemployment, held earlier in the day, and heralded by many in the German news media as a success. Furthermore, the SPD must now worry that this bad news will cast a dark shadow over the crucial upcoming state elections in Nordrhein-Westfallen, Germany's most populous state.
Earlier, it appeared that Heide Simonis, the SPD's Minister President of Germany's northernmost state since 1993, had just barely won re-election to Schleswig-Holstein's parliament in elections held this past February 20th. Although the SPD-Green coalition actually received one seat less than the CDU-FDP opposition, a small, obscure party with ties to Denmark, the SSW, agreed to support Simonis with its two parliamentary seats, giving her the tiny one-vote advantage necessary to form a coalition government.
20 February 2005: Schleswig-Holstein Election Results: Despite significant losses by the SPD and significant gains by the CDU since the 2000 election, Simonis hoped to cling to power with the help of the tiny SSW and its 2 seats. With the SSW, Ms. Simonis appeared to have a slight 35 to 34 advantage over the CDU-FDP opposition. Or so she thought... (Graphics from SPIEGEL ONLINE)
Scandal: Secret Betrayal Deadlocks Vote for Schleswig-Holstein State Government
But how cruel the fates can be! It now appears that a turncoat voter among the planned SPD-Green-SSW coalition has spoiled Ms. Simonis' bid for re-election to a fourth term as Schleswig-Holstein's Minister President. After four separate votes in the state parliament, the result came back deadlocked each time. The final tally: 34 votes for Simonis, 34 votes for opposition challenger Peter Harry Carstensen of the CDU. Clearly, one of the SPD-Green-SSW electors was determined to ruin Ms. Simonis' day and stubbornly withheld the key vote she needed to secure re-election.
It has now been confirmed that Ms. Simonis will be unable to continue on as Schleswig-Holstein's Minister President. Wild speculation has broken out as to what will be done to break the parliamentary deadlock.
Here is how the German media is reporting on the developments:
N24: "Unprecedented Debacle for Red-Green in Kiel"
Stern: "State Parliament Sends Simonis to the Heide"
SPIEGEL ONLINE: "After Election Debacle: Simonis Weighs Resignation"
Die Welt: "Simonis Era is Over"
Focus: "Confusion Around Simonis' Resignation"
Die Zeit: "Heide Ade"
Sueddeutsche Zeitung: "Unprecedented Election Drama in Kiel: Simonis Takes a Timeout"
NTV: "Disaster for Simonis"
Handelsblatt: "Simonis' Future Open after Election Debacle"
He Who Laughs Last - Laughs Loudest: The CDU's Peter Harry Carstensen can hardly contain himself as a worried Heidi Simonis considers her dwindling options in the background after failing to gain re-election in four parliamentary votes...
A Grand Coalition and a Black Eye for the SPD
After the Schleswig-Holstein election on February 20th, SPD party leaders sought to portray the result, which they believed to be a narrow 35 to 34 victory, as evidence that the worst bleeding had been stopped and that the party was back on the right track. This latest political catastrophe has now re-opened an old wound and put the SPD decidedly on the defensive on precisely the day that it had hoped to regain the political initiative and momentum through Schroeder's speech.
A "Grand Coalition" consisting of the CDU and SPD now appears to be the most likely outcome of the current parliamentary deadlock in Schleswig-Holstein. The results of the deadlock, however, could carry heavy implications nationally for Gerhard Schroeder and his Socialist-Green coalition. The Chancellor's hopes for re-election in 2006 have never looked particularly good. Now they look even worse...
(Article by Ray D.)