Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kraft takes power in North Rhine-Westphalia

Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft has been elected premier of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), sealing her minority centre-left government rule in Germany’s most populous state.

Kraft’s coalition of centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and environmentalist Greens will now take power in the western economic powerhouse, which has been politically paralysed for nine weeks following an inconclusive election result.

The outcome is a blow for beleaguered Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose centre-right federal government has now lost control of the upper house, or Bundesrat, which represents Germany's 16 states. This, in turn, will make it harder for her coalition of conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) to pass legislation.

Kraft, 49, won the second ballot with 90 MPs voting for her, 80 against and 11 abstaining.

In her first address as premier, Kraft thanked the previous centre-right government – which was resoundingly trounced at the polls in May – for its five years’ service.

“Amid all the political differences, one goal unites us: a strong and liveable NRW,” she said.

As the leader of a minority government, Kraft will have a tough time passing legislation. Her “red-green” coalition will need to scrape together other parties’ votes in the state parliament – either from its left or its right – meaning it will need to make deals or risk a parliamentary deadlock.

Kraft said she wanted to work with all parties to ensure the smooth governing of the state.

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