Regional elections in Hesse are set to kick off a year of pre general election voting in Germany.The battle in Hesse is to be a familiar one, with the CDU pitted against the SPD. The CDU candidate Roland Koch is hoping to be able to rule the region after the January 18th vote, along with the liberals. He is caretaker right now. The SPD’s chances of success in Hesse could be hampered by its invitation to the far-left to join a grand coalition. Roland Koch said: “We have the first Western Social Democracy which has given up all principles. To stay in power they help Lafontaine and his leftist party to come to power in Germany. We do not want a left republic.” Almost half of all voters in Hesse, Germany’s financial heartland, remain undecided six weeks before the poll. The SPD has changed leader for the ballot. Gone is Andrea Ypsilanti, who failed to win backing as premier in november, replaced by Thorsten Schaeffer-Guembel. The Hesse ballot is being seen as a test case for the SPD’s future direction and its readiness to court far-left support. The left is distrusted by many in Germany because of links to communist East Germany. The SPD has ruled out a coalition with the left at national level.