Merkel's party suffers setback in state polls
Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has suffered its worst defeat in the state of North Rhine Westphalia in a mid-term election, a week after it lost control of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The CDU, which is in the opposition in the largest German state of North Rhine Westphalia, lost its position as the largest political force by polling 26.3 per cent of the votes on Sunday, 8.3 per cent less than that in the last election two years ago.
The defeat comes a week after the party suffered a debacle in the elections in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The state's minority coalition government of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party returned to power with a solid majority.
Norbert Roettgen, CDU's leading candidate and a close aide of Merkel, took responsibility for his party's election debacle and stepped down as chairman of the party's state unit soon after the results began to emerge.
The outcome of the poll was a "bitter defeat" for him personally and for his party, he said.
Roettgen said, in a TV debate, that he will, however, keep his post of the environment minister in Merkel's Cabinet.
The SPD, under the leadership of its state premier and leading candidate Hannelore Kraft, emerged as the main winner of the election with 38.3 per cent share of the votes, around four per cent more than in the last election.
Kraft, who ruled the state for 20 months, said her party achieved its election goals and she will continue her coalition with the Green Party on a firm foundation.
The SPD and the Green Party together have 120 seats in the state Parliament in Duesseldorf, ten seats more than the minimum needed to form a government.
Yesterday's election became necessary after Kraft's minority government was defeated in a vote on the state budget two months ago. She dissolved the state Parliament and called for a re-election.