Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Merkel's Party Battered in Northern State

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Merkel's Party Battered in Northern State

Article excerpt

The outcome of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein was being viewed as setting the tone for next week's election in the most populous of Germany's 16 states, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Voters in Germany's northernmost state appeared to have ousted their center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and the pro-business Free Democrats, according to exit polls released Sunday.

The outcome of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein was being viewed as setting the tone for next week's election in the most populous of Germany's 16 states, North Rhine-Westphalia. It was also seen as a foreshadowing of things to come when Ms. Merkel's coalition is put to the test in general elections in 2013.

Although Ms. Merkel's Christian Democrats emerged as the strongest party in Kiel, winning 30.5 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll released by public broadcaster ARD, that would not be enough to remain in power with the pro-business Free Democrats. A loss in Schleswig-Holstein would be the latest setback for the constellation that governs in Berlin.

The exit poll showed the Free Democrats winning 8.5 percent of the vote, down from 14 percent. While enough to guarantee that they remain in the local legislature, the result was a clear turnaround for a party that has seen its popularity plummet after being voted out in five of the last six regional ballots.

"If the Free Democrats can fare better than before, perhaps their nadir has been passed," said Joachim Krause, a political scientist at the University of Kiel. "It shows that there is room for things to improve by 2013."

The young Pirate party appeared to emerge as the biggest winners in Schleswig-Holstein with 8 percent of the vote, according to the exit poll. This would be more than enough votes to usher the young party into their third state regional legislature in as many elections, following wins of 8. …

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