Merkel party loses key state election

Merkel party loses key state election

In a major setback to Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s ruling CDU suffered its worst defeat in a key mid-term state election, which was widely seen as a “test vote” for next year’s parliamentary polls when she will be seeking a third term.

Fify-seven-year-old Merkel has been weakened by the outcome of the poll in North Rhine Westphalia state — where the Social Democratic Party (SPD) emerged as the main winner — at a time when pressure is mounting on her to ease her austerity course to tackle Europe’s debt crisis and give more emphasis for generating growth.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union bit the dust in the state in an early election on Sunday when its support plunged to 26.3 per cent of the votes from 34.6 per cent polled in the last election two years ago.

The election in Germany’s most populous state was widely seen as a “test vote” for the parliamentary election at the end of next year when Merkel will be seeking a third term.

The CDU’s defeat was the eleventh in a state election since the last parliamentary election in September, 2009 and it comes a week after the party was voted out of power in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The SPD, which is in the opposition in Berlin, emerged as the main winner of the election and secured a strong endorsement from the voters to continue its coalition government with the Green party.

The SPD’s leading candidate Hannelore Kraft was heading a minority coalition government with the Green party since the election in May, 2010.

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