Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union loses key state election in Germany

Angela Merkel

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 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 morethan 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.

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