Merkel's CDU loses Lower Saxony polls in Germany
Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suffered a setback as her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was voted out of power in the state polls in Lower Saxony where the opposition alliance of SPD and Green Party has emerged victorious, months ahead of the general election in which she is seeking a third four-year term.
The state had been ruled for the past ten years by the CDU in a coalition with the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), similar to Merkel's coalition government in Berlin.
The ruling coalition led by state Premier David McAllister and the opposition alliance of Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green party were initially running neck-and-neck with 67 seats each in the 135-seat state legislature in yesterday's polls.
However, the SPD and the Green party moved ahead of the ruling coalition and established a wafer thin majority of just one vote, which will give them the mandate to form the next government, according to provisional official results announced late last night.
The CDU lost 6.5 per cent of votes compared to the last election in 2008 and polled around 36 per cent, but defended its position as the largest political force in the state.
The CDU's coalition partner FDP surprised pollsters and election analysts by finishing the race with 9.9 per cent votes, a gain of around 1.7 per cent.
Several opinion polls ahead of the election had predicted that the FDP would miss the five per cent minimum votes needed to return to the state Parliament.
The SPD with its leading candidate, Mayor of Hannover Stephan Weil, received 32.6 per cent votes, 2.6 per cent more than the last election.
The Green party emerged as the main winner of the election by capturing 13.6 per cent votes, 5.6 per cent more than 2008, its best result in a state election.
A new coalition government between the SPD and the Green party in Lower Saxony will make governing more difficult for Chancellor Merkel's coalition at the Centre.
It will further reduce the ruling coalition's strength in Bundesrat, upper house of Parliament, and leave it at mercy of the opposition to pass key legislations. The opposition will be in control of 36 out of 69 votes in the Bundesrat.
The Left party, which entered the state Parliament for the first time by polling 7.1 per cent of the votes in the last election, bowed out of the house as it got only around 2.6 per cent, far short of the minimum five per cent needed to remain in the house.
National Parliamentary polls in Germany are scheduled to take place in September.