Merkel coalition suffers election setback

5th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition was under pressure Monday after suffering a drubbing in elections in her home state ahead of a key parliamentary debate on the latest eurozone rescue plan.

Her Christian Democrats (CDU) lost votes, while her allies at the federal level, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), suffered total defeat in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The Social Democrats (SPD) came top of the poll and will be able to chose whether to form a coalition government with the CDU or with the left-wing Linke party.

And the Greens scored a notable victory, winning representation to the local parliament for the first time. This means the Greens are now represented in all of the country's 16 regional assemblies, as well as at the federal level.

For Merkel's party this was the fifth time in six regional elections this year that they had lost votes.

For the FDP, which scored just 2.7 percent of the vote, this was the fourth time this year it lost all representation in a regional parliament.

Voters appear to be worried by Merkel's management of the eurozone debt crisis and angry at internal squabbling within her ruling coalition.

According to an opinion poll released last week, four out of five Germans fear the current financial crisis will get worse and a large majority do not believe Merkel can do anything about it.

"We are in a situation where people are very worried about the crisis in Europe ... and they want a government which they can trust, which remains calm and knows where it is going. And that's not Merkel is about," the secretary general of the SPD Andrea Nahles told NTV television.

CDU parliamentary leader Peter Altmaier acknowledged that the debt crisis had weighed on the election.

"We're going to have to take important and difficult decisions as regards European policy... That obviously has an impact in an election period, especially in a regional poll," he told ZDF television.

Parliament will this week start debating the latest European rescue fund put forward by Merkel amid bickering among her own backbenchers.

A number of them have threatened to abstain or vote against extending the European Financial Stability Facility's (EFSF), which is meant to help alleviate the eurozone debt crisis.

Merkel is assured of a parliamentary majority as Social Democrats and Greens have both said they will back the bill.

But she would suffer a humiliating setback if she had to rely on the opposition, rather than her own coalition, to pass the bill.

A final parliamentary vote on the EFSF is expected on September 29.

© 2011 AFP

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