Merkel spokesman rules out post-vote reshuffle

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has no plans for a cabinet reshuffle after her party lost power in a state election for the third time in her second term, her spokesman said Monday.

"The chancellor has no such plans," Steffen Seibert told a regular government briefing after Sunday's election saw Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) voted out of office in Baden-Wuerttemberg after 58 years.

One figure seen by German newspapers as ripe for the chop is Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle from Merkel's national coalition partners, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

An embarrassing media report last week quoted Bruederle as saying that Merkel's recent decision to suspend an extension to nuclear power plants' operating period was motivated by the state election.

This appeared to confirm the suspicions of many voters, with one survey showing 70 percent thought the chancellor's announcement smacked of "electioneering."

The defeat in Baden-Wuerttemberg was the third in Merkel's almost 18-month-old second term, having lost Hamburg in February and North Rhine-Westphalia in May, and with it control of the Bundesrat upper house.

The FDP only just cleared the five-percent hurdle needed to gain seats in the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament, but failed to do so in another election the same day in Rhineland-Palatinate.

The party also missed out in Saxony-Anhalt last Sunday, and the results are likely to increase pressure on FDP leader Guido Westerwelle, the vice chancellor and foreign minister.

Bruederle's spokeswoman Sarah Schneid said that he intended to carry on in his job.

© 2011 AFP

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