Merkel party faces nail-biter in regional vote

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a knife-edge state election on Sunday that could provide vital clues to Germany's political landscape 16 months before a national vote likely to hand her a third term.

With most eyes fixed on critical national elections in France and Greece, the 2.8 million people in the small state of Schleswig-Holstein, in Germany's north, will deliver their verdict on Merkel and her eurozone crisis-fighting record.

Latest polls showed Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) roughly neck-and-neck with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) at around 30 percent.

However, voters seemed near certain to boot out the current state coalition of CDU and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) -- who also govern together at national level -- amid plunging support for the FDP.

And with a vital state election a week later in the populous and industrial North Rhine-Westphalia, the FDP's performance in the two votes will determine how stable Merkel's junior partners remain in the run-up to the national election.

If the FDP fails to beat the five-percent mark needed for representation, "this could be a bad sign for the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia, where they could suffer another defeat leading to a leadership crisis," said Carsten Kochschmieder, political scientist at Berlin's Free University.

The most likely result of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein was a "grand coalition" of the two main parties, potentially pointing the way to a similar constellation at national level come next September or October, analysts said.

Merkel governed with a grand coalition with the Social Democrats during her first term from 2005 but gleefully ditched the opposition in 2009 in favour of the FDP, which achieved a stunning 14.6 percent in the election.

But the CDU-FDP marriage proved rocky from the start and polls showed a second grand coalition led by Merkel at national level was a strong possibility.

Another party to watch in Sunday's election is the upstart Pirate Party, which has rocked German politics by cruising into two state parliaments on a platform of greater political transparency and Internet freedom.

Polls showed the Pirates were likely to gain enough votes to win seats in the state parliament in Schleswig-Holstein.

The election would have little impact on the make-up of the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament where Germany's 16 states are represented, and Merkel's personal popularity remains high.

But, as Germany's respected weekly Die Zeit noted, the Schleswig-Holstein vote, along with the North Rhine-Westphalia election, would point to "whether Germany's most popular and Europe's strongest politician has a chance of staying in power."

"The elections will decide with what strength the government will be able to pursue its course in Germany and Europe," added the weekly.

advertisement

Breitbart Video Picks

advertisement

advertisement

Fox News National

advertisement

advertisement

Send A Tip

From Our Partners