German Greens deal Merkel party another election blow

Published Monday, 23 May 2011
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Green party beats CDU for first time in state elections after coming second to Social Democrats in Bremen

Angela Merkel has been dealt another blow after support for her Christian Democratic Union party plunged once again – this time at regional elections in Bremen.

For the first time in state elections, the Green party won more votes than the CDU, capturing almost 23% of the vote on Sunday, according to an exit poll from German state television ARD.

The Green surge, if confirmed by final results, means the party will continue to rule in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), who have been in charge of the north German city for 66 years.

While the Greens' victory in the smallest of Germany's 16 states will not directly affect the chancellor's hold on the federal government, it is another symbolic black eye for Merkel and her party.

In Baden-Württemberg's state election in March, the Christian Democrats were voted out of power for the first time in five decades. The anti-nuclear Greens became the strongest party there amid concerns over Germany's atomic future following the Fukushima plant accident in Japan. The win will mean that Germany will have its first Green governor.

The success in Bremen has led some Greens to admit they are now on the hunt for a candidate for chancellor to go head-to-head with Merkel at national elections in 2013 should their trajectory continue upwards. Some are even tipping the popular former foreign minister Joschka Fischer for a comeback. According to German magazine Focus, a third of Germans would still vote for Fischer.

Merkel's junior partner in the federal government, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), look to have been kicked out of Bremen's bürgerschaft, the state legislature, after failing to meet the minimum 5% threshold. Provisional results suggest the FDP won 2.5% of the vote – a headache for Merkel as well as its new national leader, Philipp Rösler.

The Left party won 6.4% of the Bremen vote, down from just over 8% in 2007, the poll said.

The Greens' rise was also echoed in a new national poll, that saw their support at 23%, closely trailing the SDP's 26%.

The poll commissioned by ARD television and released on Sunday showed the CDU at 33%, and the FDP at 4%.

Merkel's conservatives won Germany's last general election in 2009 with 33.8% of the vote and joined forces with the FDP, which had then secured a 14.6% share.

About 1,000 people were surveyed for the poll that had a margin of error of up to 3.1%.

Sunday's vote in Bremen marked the first time in German history that people between 16- and 18-years-old were allowed to vote for their state legislature. Despite that effort to boost the vote, ARD estimated a turnout of 54%, down from 57% four years earlier. © Guardian News and Media 2011
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