What a Hollande Victory Would Mean for Merkel

Image-341096-panoV9free-vhzcVeit Medick and Severin Weiland in Spiegel:

As Europe continues to integrate both economically and politically, the outcomes of national elections have grown in importance to reach beyond their own borders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel knows that, and it's why she will travel on Sunday to Paris, where voters will be heading to the polls in the first round of the French presidential elections.

Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting for a second term, but he has a strong opponent. The Socialist candidate, François Hollande, has a good chance of moving into the Élysée Palace. The latest polls show Hollande leading in the first round of voting, as well as in the possible run-off vote on May 6.

For Merkel, this is an election like no other, and one that is even more important to her than many German state elections. Whoever wins in France will help drive European policy by her side. If the victor proves to be Hollande, who differs with Merkel's closely allied partner Sarkozy on many issues, not the least of which involve rescuing of the euro, things could become uncomfortable for her, both in Brussels and at home in Berlin.

The election in France could even alter the political landscape ahead of Germany's upcoming federal election in 2013. The center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are trailing the chancellor in recent polls, desperately need a boost. If Hollande were to win, it would send a signal that social democracy in Europe, and in Germany, is still a force to be reckoned with. That's how party members see it, at least.