German vote 'nuclear referendum': foreign minister

27th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Germany's foreign minister said Sunday that the ruling coalition's crushing defeat at the hands of the ecologist Greens in a state poll would prompt a rethink on nuclear policy in Berlin.

Speaking after exit polls showed Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition were set to cede power in their heartland after nearly 60 years of unbroken rule, Guido Westerwelle said: "It was a referendum over the future of atomic energy."

"We've got it," added Westerwelle, who is also head of the Free Democrats, (FDP) Merkel's coalition allies.

"And for this reason, this is a result that of course must be discussed thoroughly not only in the regional chapters but also here in Berlin," pledged the minister.

In the wealthy state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the FDP appeared just to scrape over the five-percent hurdle needed for entry in parliament, according to initial results.

A coalition of the opposition Social Democrats and the Greens looked poised to take power in the key state, with a Green party state premier at the helm for the first time in German history.

"It's a very difficult evening for us liberals. We have lost the election today. We are disappointed by the result," admitted Westerwelle.

Following Japan's nuclear crisis, Merkel said she would hold a three-month moratorium on an earlier decision to extend the lifespan of Germany's nuclear reactors, a climb-down that smacked to voters of electioneering.

"The dreadful events in Japan, the nuclear accident in Fukushima and the consequences for us in Germany: these were the most decisive topics in this state election," said Westerwelle.

© 2011 AFP

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