It's election season up in North Rhineland Westphalia (NRW). The top CDU and SPD candidate met last night for a debate....where things went badly for the SPD.
Both Hannelore Kraft (the current head of government in NRW, and chief of the regional SPD Party) and Armin Laschet (CDU chief regionally) are fairly well known in Germany. Both are trying hard to convince the public in NRW to side with them.
We are about 10 days away from the election.
So the big topic came up last night at the debate....the 31 December 2015 New Year's Eve riot in Koln. For those not familiar with the episode....this evening is typically a night where roughly a hundred-thousand local Koln residents will come out into the central part of the city (near the railway station and cathedral)...to celebrate the new year. Drinking and fire-works are part of the normal celebration.
On this 31 December 2015 episode....a large number of migrant men (mostly from North African countries)....came out and made a fair amount of trouble. Fire works were fired off at people....sexual assault on women was common, and general thug behavior. By the next morning, roughly a thousand police reports had been generated. Most everyone by noon of 1 January in Koln....were discussing the situation and noticeably irritated by the lack of cops, and the bad behavior of the 'guests'.
The CDU guy at this debate latched onto that topic last night.....it didn't go well for Kraft.
At some point in the debate, she noted that she really didn't know about the attacks for several days. It seems odd because on social media....it was blasting away across all of the city. In some way, she is suggesting that none of the city management, city police, or her own interior minister contacted her the next morning (the 1st) to talk about this. Was she left totally out of the loop?
Then her weak excuse of 'not living in Koln' was laid out...to help her explain how she didn't know about the events of the evening.
Most polls for this state election in NRW indicate that the SPD party leads with around 5-to-6 points (at least before the debate yesterday).
If you ask me....the debate really didn't help the SPD at all, and probably knocked three to four points off their situation. I think the election will be fairly close. For the SPD, it's more or less a "MUST-WIN" situation for the party to show some strength in the fall national election and for their national candidate Schulz. If they lose this election....it says a lot about their ability nationally.
The curious aspect? This debate was on a regional public-TV network and viewed not only by locals in NRW, but nationally as well. No one will state statistics but you would think that maybe two-hundred-thousand-plus non-NRW residents probably watched the debate. Nationally, the debate might have some input.
The one positive for Kraft and the SPD Party? She did strongly endorse more cops and more security in the region.