What does the Hesse election mean for Germany?
Conservatives and Social Democrats have suffered double-digit losses in the elections to the legislature in the German state of Hesse. However, since the Green Party achieved its best result ever, the CDU-Green Party coalition could still remain in power. The result ups the pressure on the government in Berlin, commentators say, and voice doubts that it will be able to stay in power for much longer.
Pressure on coalition mounting
The biggest threat to Merkel's coalition in Berlin doesn't come from her own party, observes Corriere della Sera's Germany correspondent Paolo Valentino:
“Hesse has inflicted another bitter defeat on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her allies from the SPD. ... Although the earthquake in Wiesbaden isn't of the same magnitude as the Bavarian one two weeks ago its seismic shocks will certainly be felt in Berlin. The worst news for Angela Merkel's grand coalition, however, comes not from the chancellor's own party but consists in the confirmation of the existential crisis that threatens to engulf the SPD and which will certainly increase the pressure within the party to cancel the governing coalition deal in Berlin.”
Grand coalition could soon be history
After its disastrous results in Bavaria and Hesse the SPD leadership could now pull the ripcord and leave the grand coalition government, BBC News believes:
“The losses are undoubtedly ammunition for critics in her party who want rid of Mrs Merkel. But she may face a more immediate problem. Her Social Democrat coalition partners are in electoral freefall. … Many in the party blame the controversial coalition with Mrs Merkel's conservatives. The SPD's leaders may decide to pull out of the alliance and bring down her fragile government. Germans are calling this a 'schicksalswahl', or vote of destiny. It may yet seal the fate of this country's government - and perhaps even its leader.”
Death struggle will drag on
The Tages-Anzeiger, on the other hand, doesn't believe the coalition will collapse any time soon:
“Far more likely is that the agony of this unpopular government will be prolonged far into next year. The CDU and SPD are both equally afraid of new elections. Merkel's successors are not ready yet, and nor is the old matriarch ready to give up her power yet. The SPD, for its part, suspects that voters would punish it just as harshly for leaving the government as they would for staying in it. For it to make the break it needs a credible political reason that optimally would also give it the impetus for a strong election campaign. Committing suicide for fear of death is not a strategy.”
Merkel make way for successor
Der Standard has a hard time imagining that Merkel can remain at the helm of the country and the CDU for much longer:
“She's been leader of the party for the past 18 years and chancellor for the last 13. Like many state elections in the past, Hesse shows that with her at the helm, no more elections can be won. That doesn't mean she has to step down immediately as chancellor. But she must now organise an orderly transition. The CDU party conference will take place in Hamburg at the start of December. There it must be made clear who will lead the party in the coming years. It can no longer be Merkel: she should make way for a new generation. The much-used argument that there is no real successor is absurd and speaks volumes about the state of the party.”