'Slap' for Merkel coalition in home state vote
Angela Merkel on Monday digested the latest in a series of election defeats after her party suffered a poll defeat in her home state, two years before Germany's leader faces voters nationwide.
Merkel's centre-right coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) were dealt what mass circulation daily Bild termed a "sharp slap."
This year's state elections are seen as a litmus test of support for the ruling coalition.
In contrast, the main opposition parties -- the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the ecologist Greens -- made significant gains in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
"The election in her homeland ... has made governing even more difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel," the Stuttgarter Zeitung regional daily said on Monday.
The CDU's vote share dropped to 23.3 percent, an embarrassing fall of more than five percentage points compared to five years ago.
Angered by her reaction to the eurozone debt crisis and turned off by internal squabbling within the governing coalition, voters have this year delivered a series of electoral drubbings to Merkel and the CDU.
The most humiliating of these came in March in the wealthy southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg that the conservatives had ruled without interruption for nearly six decades.
And Merkel is unlikely to gain any traction from the seventh of this year's regional elections, in the city state of Berlin, where polls show the SPD will romp to victory.
With around 8.5 percent of the vote, the Greens won representation in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania's parliament for the first time, capping a meteoric rise that has seen them recapture their role as a major force in German politics.
The Greens are now represented in all of Germany's 16 regional parliaments, with the party's co-leader Cem Ozdemir hailing the result as a "real sensation."
As expected, the SPD were the clear winners of the vote in Merkel's home state, a scenic but poor region in the former communist East Germany, where unemployment rages at nearly twice the national average.
The SPD captured 36.5 percent of the vote, according to exit polls, a gain of around six percentage points from their last result in 2006.
The third-strongest party was the far-left Linke party, which won 18.0 percent of the votes cast.
The far-right NPD party, which achieved its best-ever score in the economically depressed state in 2006, appeared to have scraped back into parliament, albeit with a lower share of the vote at 5.9 percent.
But the "clear losers" of the vote, according to the influential Bild daily, were the governing coalition partner, the FDP, polling a paltry 2.8 percent.
They have crashed out from the state legislature as parties need to reach 5 percent to enter.
"For the Liberals, this result is a disaster. Losing more than two-thirds of the voters, kicked out of the parliament. Could it have been worse?" the paper said.
The party's general secretary Christian Lindner acknowledged the result left "a very bitter taste."
Talks will now take place over forming a government in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with analysts saying the CDU might cling on to power as junior partners in coalition with the SPD.
But there was already media speculation that the unpopular foreign minister Guido Westerwelle, a former head of the FDP, could lose his job as a result of the defeat.
After guiding the FDP to power with its best-ever result in national elections in 2009, Westerwelle is widely seen as the reason for the party's fall from grace.
"It is looking increasingly likely that Westerwelle will be chucked out," commented the Saarbruecker Zeitung daily.
© 2011 AFP