Morning Briefing Arrhythmia in SPD Heartland

The state elections in Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein and now North Rhine-Westphalia were supposed to put the Social Democratics on the path to power but they’ve become a triad of defeat instead.

Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, North Rhine-Westphalia: What was supposed to be a hop, step and jump on the center-left Social Democrats’ path to power in September has instead become a trip, stumble and wipe-out. The SPD is lamenting its worst results ever in North Rhine-Westphalia and the resignation of their regional boss and former beacon of hope, Hannelore Kraft. High drama in the home state of Martin Schulz, who urgently needs to add some talking points to his cliché of “social justice.”

The Free Democratic Party enjoyed a little too much success in Germany’s most populous state. It had prepared itself to be a forceful opposition against a CDU-SPD coalition. But the failure of the ex-communist Left party to enter the state parliament means that FDP boss Christian Lindner is now expected to hold coalition talks with the CDU, and might end up governing. That’s a distraction for Mr. Lindner, who’d rather stay focused on returning to the federal parliament.

In Austria, the conservative Sebastian Kurz is done with grand coalitions of center-right with center-left. The 30-year-old, currently foreign minister, has just maneuvered himself into the leader’s chair of the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). Right away he brusquely announced that he would break with the ÖVP’s social-democratic coalition partners. Apparently the ÖVP will stand in this fall’s snap election as “Sebastian Kurz – the new people’s party.” This 30-year-old seems to want to become chancellor before he’s 40.

How to make a friend on your first day at work: Angela Merkel is hosting new French President Emmanuel Macron today for talks in Berlin. A self-confessed social-liberal (Macron) will encounter a secret social-liberal (Merkel), who has to appease the strengthening conservative forces in her CDU base. These German conservatives see Macron’s ideas of a common Eurozone budget and finance minister as a grasp for German money. “L’Europe en Marche” may be a long time in coming.

The man they call the “Sun King” will play a pivotal role in today’s meeting with Solarworld’s insolvency administrators. Founder Frank Asbeck has earned a fortune over the years despite his company’s bankruptcy, taking home some €95 million since the IPO in 1999 in stock sales, dividends and wages, according to Handelsblatt estimates. Solarworld points out in its defense that in 2009 it capped Board of Management pay at twenty-times average salary. “Do not follow the bad example which I have set you,” the original Sun King, Louis XIV, said on his deathbed.

Large companies’ IT experts will be working extra shifts this week. Europol expects hackers to launch new coordinated attacks following recent infiltrations of some 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries, affecting Deutsche Bahn, Fedex, and Renault, among others. The globalization of modern-day crime is playing out in cyberspace.

Image of the Day

Portuguese musician Salvador Sobral led his country to a surprise victory at the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev, Ukraine.