Coalition implodes in key German state

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Germany's Green party said Sunday it would end its coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in the northern city of Hamburg, in a bitter blow for the embattled German leader.

The Greens said their tie-up with Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) had failed in Hamburg, Germany's second city and also one of its 16 federal states, and called for new elections next year.

"We always said that we would not see out this coalition until the end of the term (in 2012) at all costs," the Greens' chairman in Hamburg, Jens Kerstan, said in a statement.

"We no longer believe that the coalition has the strength to realise projects important for the future of Hamburg."

An election in Hamburg next year would bring to seven the number of state polls scheduled in 2011, at a time when Merkel's CDU is suffering from dwindling support and the Greens have seen a surge in public backing.

In 2008 the CDU formed with Merkel's approval its first alliance with the Greens party -- an intriguing liaison that analysts had said could serve as a model one day on the national level.

But the partnership soured after one of its architects, Mayor Ole von Beust, a CDU moderate and close Merkel ally, left politics in August.

The Greens cited his departure as a fateful turning point, making it even more difficult to reach agreement on thorny local issues such as school reform and the dire state of Hamburg's public finances.

Merkel won a second term in September 2009 elections with her coalition partner of choice, the pro-business Free Democrats, but her government has suffered a free fall in opinion polls since then due to incessant infighting.

Disenchantment with the government in Berlin, including a decision to extend the life of the country's nuclear reactors which the Greens fiercely oppose, has seen the CDU's support sink to about 34 percent on the national level.

Meanwhile the Greens have now pulled level with the traditional chief opposition party, the Social Democrats, at about 22 percent.

© 2010 AFP

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