Merkel set to lose key state


German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition was defeated in its south western heartland and trailed in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate as support for the anti- nuclear Greens party surged in two state elections, exit polls this evening showed.

Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Union took 38.5 per cent in today's election in Baden-Wuerttemberg and their Free Democratic Party allies 5.2 per cent, leaving them short of the majority needed to continue their coalition of 15 years, exit polls on ZDF television showed.

The state coalition – the same constellation as Merkel's federal government -- was thwarted by a surge in popularity for the opposition Greens, which took a record 24.5
Per cent.

The Social Democrats won 23.5 per cent. The result may cost the CDU control of the state capital Stuttgart for the first time since 1953.

In the vote in Rhineland-Palatinate, the ruling Social Democrats took 36 percent, forcing them to search for a coalition partner after governing alone. Ms Merkel's CDU won 35.5 per cent and the Greens 15 per cent. The Free Democrats, with 4 per cent, failed to return to the state parliament in Mainz, according to the exit polls

The race effectively turned into a referendum on Ms Merkel.

"She no longer looks like a strong leader for her party who can get the job done," Gero Neugebauer, political scientist at Berlin's Free University, said.

Baden-Wuerttemberg, on the French and Swiss borders is known for its car industry, medieval university towns and the Black Forest. Losing it would weaken Ms Merkel's grip on her party, which suffered a bitter state election defeat in Hamburg Last month.

It would be ironic as Baden-Wuerttemberg is one of Germany's richest states with its lowest unemployment rate -4.7 per cent.

CDU state premier Stefan Mappus warned of disorder in the southwestern state if the conservatives lose control.

"What's at stake is the future of Baden-Wuerttemberg ... We've got the lowest unemployment and highest wages in Germany," Mappus told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "There would be chaos if the SPD and Greens win."