Has Merkel already won the parliamentary election?

Victory for the CDU, a bitter defeat for the SPD: Angela Merkel's party has won the elections in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with 33 percent of the vote. Securing just 31.2 percent the SPD, traditionally the strongest party in the state, lost almost eight points. Commentators across Europe discuss the election in Germany's most populous state and conclude that it has a signal effect.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

You know what you're getting

The Germans are in no mood for experiments, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung suspects:

“After the refugee crisis this is probably not the time for a repetition of Merkel's winning slogan from 2013 - 'You know me'. Nevertheless, considering the chancellor and the pretty good shape the country is in, many elderly Germans in particular must have the slogan from an old washing powder commercial in mind: you know what you're getting. Of course even with a detergent hardly anyone knows exactly what's inside it. The Green Party would add: or what harm it does to the environment! Nevertheless the washing has always come out clean, and that's what interests Germans the most.”

El País (ES) /

Social democracy facing debacle

The burden on Martin Schulz's shoulders is growing, El País notes:

“The third defeat in a row was meant to be a wake-up call for the German Social Democrats. The party doesn't seem to have reconnected with its electorate despite having chosen a new leader in March: Martin Schulz. The latest victory for Angela Merkel's conservatives - this time in a traditional centre-left stronghold - leaves the progressive forces facing a complicated task ahead of the parliamentary elections this September. ... And even though Schulz is right when he says that he's not a magician, the fact is that it is he who now bears the responsibility of avoiding a genuine debacle for a party and a social model that have played a key role for Germany and Europe since the end of World War II.”

De Tijd (BE) /

"Mutti" is the only certainty

The CDU's victory in North Rhine-Westphalia is also a victory for Merkel, De Tijd stresses:

“Merkel remains the embodiment of steadfastness and calm in turbulent election times. ... Nevertheless the German political landscape is also changing. The CDU is no longer the all-powerful party, and it is conceivable that after another defeat the SPD won't take part in another grand coalition. And therein lies the problem. Even if Germany's political fragmentation isn't as bad as it is in other European countries and coalition building is part of the Germans' genetic make-up, we must still wait and see how voters shuffle the deck in September. ... Merkel will probably succeed herself as chancellor. But more important than ever before is the question: with whom? Because the last three state elections have failed to provide an answer. The only real certainty is 'Mutti'.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Precisely the chancellor Europe needs

Sydsvenskan sees Merkel strengthened in the run-up to the German parliamentary elections in the autumn and believes this is a good thing for the EU:

“From a European and global point of view one can't complain that Merkel seems to be heading for another term as German chancellor. It looks like she will play an even more important role than so far. ... Merkel will be needed to pull the brakes when Macron tries to push the EU too far in the direction of federalism. Also when it comes to Russia, Merkel's importance can hardly be overestimated. … And as regards Trump, too. Trump is said to have asked ten times for a separate trade agreement with Germany. And ten times Merkel reportedly answered: 'There can be no agreement with Germany; only with the EU.' This quality of leadership is precisely what Europe needs.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Two-speed EU now a fact

La Repubblica also examines what consequences the CDU's victory in North Rhine-Westphalia will have for Europe:

“The Europe that awaits us after the German elections in the autumn will to a large extent be a new edition of what we've already seen: a Europe paralysed by an eternal power struggle between a north that preaches ordoliberalism and a south that alternates between distrust and the inability to adjust to this market economy system. Whereby at least in theory a new factor has come into play: Emmanuel Macron's France. ... A fourth victory for Merkel basically means a stronger Franco-German axis; that Paris too will jump on the Berlin train, at least as far as economic policy is concerned. In a Europe in which the two speeds have in effect become official, the train will set off as quickly as possible and it won't wait for the stragglers at the stop in Italy.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Merkel triumphs thanks to stoic calm

Chancellor Merkel did the right thing by keeping her cool in the face of her rival Schulz, NRC Handelsblad concludes:

“The 'Schulz effect' concealed the SPD's problem: deep uncertainty over the question of what it really wants. ... After this defeat in its most important state, there can be no doubt that the entire party and its leader have a huge problem. ... In the months when it looked like Schulz would be the SPD's saviour Merkel kept a cool head. Even as the panic mounted within her party and her party colleagues criticised her wait-and-see approach, she continued to rule stoically - on the world stage and in Berlin, tightening security and the refugee policy among other things. She didn't attack Schulz, but simply ignored him as much as possible.”