Two days after an ugly campaign in the German state of Hesse ended with voting for a new premier, both sides are claiming victory in the bellwether contest. Roland Koch, the hard-right incumbent and the CDU's de facto No. 2, obtained only a 0.1% majority—a dismal performance for a man often mentioned as a future chancellor. His xenophobic campaign backfired badly, writes the Financial Times.
Angela Merkel suppressed her distaste for Koch's arch-conservative rhetoric to campaign for him, but the result may actually help her. One of the chancellor's biggest rivals has been sidelined, and her own centrist positions have been vindicated. The left is celebrating in Hesse but, says the editor of a top German political magazine, "It’s Merkel who will reap the rewards."