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Updated: May 10, 2010 14:51 IST

German coalition under threat after defeat of Angela Merkel’s allies

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel uses her mobile phone in the German Federal Parliament in Berlin. File photo: AP.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel uses her mobile phone in the German Federal Parliament in Berlin. File photo: AP.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was facing the loss of her coalition’s majority in the upper house of parliament on Monday, following the defeat of her centre—right allies in a key state election the day before.

The Christian Democrat (CDU)—Free Democrat (FDP) alliance in the populous state of North Rhine—Westphalia, which mirrors the make—up of the federal government, lost its mandate to govern in elections for the regional parliament on Sunday.

Provisional official results show that the CDU obtained 34.6 per cent of the vote, 10.2 per cent down on the last poll in 2005, while their FDP allies gained just half a point to 6.7 per cent.

Voter turnout in the state, which holds around a fifth of German voters and is often seen as a bellwether for federal politics, slumped nearly four points to 59 per cent.

The Social Democrats (SPD), who came in at 34.5 per cent, now look likely to play a part in the next state government, potentially in coalition with the Greens, who gained more than 6 points to 12.1 per cent.

A “grand coalition” of SPD and CDU is a further possibility.

The CDU had feared that voters in the state would seek to punish Merkel’s party for the highly unpopular Greek bail—out package, to which Germany agreed to contribute some 22.4 billion euros (29.2 billion dollars) last week.

Merkel now faces a tough ride for several major planks of her coalition’s election promises, as she can no longer rely on a centre— right majority in the Bundesrat, or upper house of parliament.

The Bundesrat represents the 16 federal states, and acts as a check on the lower house, the Bundestag.

The exact effect of the state poll on federal politics will be decided when a coalition is formed in the coming days, but Free Democrat tax cut plans appear particularly endangered.

“We know that the majority in the Bundesrat has changed,” Foreign Minister and FDP leader Guido Westerwelle, said on Monday.

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