• Germany's news in English

Merkel braces for blows in vital state elections

The Local · 27 Mar 2011, 13:00

Published: 27 Mar 2011 13:00 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Merkel's conservatives have ruled Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany since 1953, but anger over her nuclear power policy as well as decisions on Libya and the euro have led voters to turn their backs on the party in droves.

Beyond a crushing blow to morale in Berlin, a defeat could make it even harder for Merkel to pass legislation in the Bundesrat upper house of parliament and prompt fresh calls for her to shore up her rightist credentials.

A poll released Friday showed a potential coalition of Social Democrats and the resurgent Greens in a comfortable position to unseat Merkel's Christian Democrats and their coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP).

The survey by the independent TNS Emnid institute showed the opposition with 48 percent of the vote in a state that is home to industrial giants Daimler and Porsche, versus 43 percent for state premier Stefan Mappus's ruling alliance.

This would mark a debacle for Merkel, 56, after drubbings in North Rhine-Westphalia in May and Hamburg in February, with three more state polls to come this year.

"Losing power in Baden-Württemberg would be the worst defeat yet for Merkel as party leader," wrote the weekly Die Zeit.

Calling Japan's crisis with its Fukushima plant a "turning point", Merkel suspended for three months an earlier decision to extend the lifetime of Germany's nuclear reactors, four of which are based in Baden-Württemberg.

She also temporarily shut off the seven oldest reactors pending a safety review.

Although nuclear power is unpopular in Germany, voters saw Merkel's zigzagging as an electoral ploy, according to polls, and it has cost her support while boosting the anti-nuclear Green party.

"The CDU thought that a state which is doing so well could not be lost, but Mappus might just manage it," the centre-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said. "People's fear of nuclear power is at the core of Mappus' fear of defeat."

Also up for grabs Sunday is Rhineland-Palatinate, where the Social Democrats risk ceding their absolute majority and may form a coalition with the Greens.

The FDP, meanwhile, could fail to clear the five-percent hurdle for representation.

Adding to the pressure, tens of thousands of Germans hit the streets Saturday in four major cities to protest the government's nuclear policy.

In addition to the nuclear climb-down, many conservatives have frowned on Berlin's abstention from a UN Security Council vote to create a no-fly zone in Libya, in a historic break with Western allies.

Critics saw the move as another sign of pandering, this time to a strong pacifist streak in the German electorate.

Story continues below…

"German foreign policy has failed, with no map, no compass and or captain," said Wolfgang Münchau of the specialist website Eurointelligence.

Finally the media savaged Merkel for agreeing at an EU summit Thursday to commit to a giant new eurozone rescue fund at a Brussels summit.

"The old promise that 'we won't pay for the others' has been broken once again," the top-selling Bild newspaper wrote.

Some 10.8 million people are eligible to vote in the two states Sunday. Preliminary results are due soon after the polls close at 6pm.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

14:51 March 27, 2011 by nolibs
I'm all for sending wake-up calls to the politicians in charge, but if what I'm reading comes to pass, we can say good-bye to German prosperity.

A SPD-Greens coalition, with a strong chance for a Greens Chancellor will lead to a slew of changes that no one wants. Expect higher taxes, more welfare handouts, Pro-Islamic laws (at the expense of native Germans and Christians, and a slew of social "equality" laws that will benefit one class at the expense of another.

Ok, so we need to rethink nuclear energy light of what is going on in Japan, but elections should never be about one issue. It will be kind of like Obama. People hated Bush so much, they voted for a man they didn't know. Then he brings in his leftist agenda, taking everyone by surprise...except those who actually listened.
Today's headlines
These are Germany's top ten universities
The new library of Freiburg University. Photo: Jörgens.mi / Wikimedia Commons

These are the best universities in all of Germany - at least according to one ranking.

Introducing Swabians - 'the Scots of Germany'
Photo: DPA

These Southern Germans have quite a reputation in the rest of the country.

Woman sues dentist over job rejection for headscarf
Photo: DPA

A dentist in Stuttgart is being taken to court by a woman whom he rejected for a job as his assistant on the basis that she wears a Muslim headscarf.

Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd