Historic Election Defeat for the SPD in Germany's Most Populous State
Not even hard-core anti-capitalism could help them this time: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) decisively lost state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state and a long-standing Social Democratic stronghold. The election defeat marked the first time in thirty-nine years that the SPD will not be governing the state and represents the worst election result for the Chancellor's party there in fifty years. Foreign Secretary Joschka Fischer's Green party went down in defeat as well. Voters were particularly unhappy about the state's economic situation, with unemployment levels recently surpassing the one-million mark for a dismal post-war record high.
The clear winner was the Christian Democratic Party (CDU). The CDU, which performed above expectations under the leadership of North Rhine-Westphalia party chief Juergen Ruettgers, will likely form a coalition government with the Free Democrats (FDP), a party that favors lower taxes and smaller government and held on to finish a distant third despite taking some losses.
UPDATE: SCHROEDER NOW CALLING FOR EARLY NATIONAL ELECTIONS
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his right-hand man, SPD Chairman Muentefering have now announced that the SPD will support early national elections in Fall 2005, one year ahead of schedule. The Chancellor announced the move because, in his words:
"With the bitter election result for my party in North Rhine-Westphalia, the foundation for the continuation of our work has been brought into question."
---Gerhard Schroeder calling for new national elections in Germany, May 22, 2005
This move will with certainty entail all sorts of legal ramifications. Only the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament, can decide on earlier elections. And this decision would most likely still be subject to review by the German Supreme Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht).
The Last SPD-Green State Government in Germany is Voted Out
The result is also a debacle for Chancellor Schroeder and Joschka Fischer because North Rhine-Westphalia was the only remaining German state government consisting of an SPD-Green coalition like that governing at a national level. After such a resounding loss and new elections on the horizon, it is hard to say whether the Chancellor will politically survive the next few months.
Here are the preliminary official results for today's North Rhine-Westphalia election:
SPD = Schroeder's Social Democrats = 37.1 % (42.8 % in 2000 election, -5.7%)
CDU = Conservative Christian Democrats = 44.8 % (37.0 % in 2000 election, +7.8%)
FDP = Free Democrats = 6.2 % (9.8 % in 2000 election, -3.6%)
Greens = 6.2 % (7.1 %, -0.9%)
Others = 5.7% (3.3 %, +2.4%)
Voter turnout in North Rhine-Westphalia increased 6.3% to 63.0% since 2000.
National approval ratings: Schroeder's SPD has been in a ratings-canyon for years now and currently trails the CDU/CSU by a whopping 20 points. If nothing changes, they will badly lose planned early elections...
The latest headlines from major German media:
ARD: Early National Elections: Everyone Fighting for Himself Alone
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Political Quake: Schroeder Wants New Elections
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Shocked Comrades: That is Political Suicide
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