BERLIN, May 13 (Xinhua) -- With record low level of support, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) suffered a setback in Sunday's vote in the country's most populous state.
The party had expected a defeat in the election in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), a weather vane for next year's national election, but not such a humiliating one.
Exit polls showed that the CDU took just 26 percent of votes, nearly 9 percentage points lower than in 2010. This is the party's worst performance in the state since 1945.
Meanwhile, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), also the current ruling coalition party in the state, garnered 38.8 percent of the vote, up from 34.5 percent, comfortably securing a parliamentary majority they were dreaming for with the ecologist Greens, which won about 12 percent.
The western state, a hub of German industry with 18 million inhabitants, is too important to ignore by politicians and global media every time when it comes to an election.
More than one German media held that the CDU state leader, Norbert Roettgen, also Merkel's federal environment minister, should be blamed for the meltdown.
"Roettgen now has to answer for the worst showing of his party in the Rhine and Ruhr, a person with his half-hearted (effort) from the very beginning (of the campaign)," read one commentary of German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
German daily newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said the CDU's dramatic setback was "not only dangerous for the people who fell down, but also dangerous for those who travel with him, even for the chancellor."
As Roettgen is widely viewed as a close ally of Merkel and CDU's potential chancellor candidate, his reluctance strengthened his untrustworthiness among voters, who believed that the rising star preferred staying in the federal architecture to living in a state far from capital.
Moreover, the 46-year-old political star made missteps and disturbed his own campaign by saying that the NRW election was a referendum on Merkel's pro-austerity drive to combat the eurozone debt crisis, which irritated his party and aroused an immediate fire-fighting from Berlin.
Merkel quickly reacted in an interview that the election was nothing more than "an important state parliament election for the NRW itself -- no more, no less."
In the contrast, Roettgen's main rival, Hannelore Kraft, the current NRW governor from the SPD and also a native daughter of a tram-worker, is building up close ties with the people.
During the campaign tours, she talked, joked and argued with citizens in a folksy accent and in an amiable manner, making herself "down to earth." as many German media described.
"Kraft is not a political high flyer star, but she exudes common sense and reliability. Her opponents Roettgen, however, remained pale. That's why she won," German political magazine Die Spiegel Online said.
Observers said that as votes in NRW are often seen as a wind vane for the federal election, the upcoming one due in 2013, Sunday's result could give Merkel a lot to reflect upon.
Unlike what is going on in the federal level, the state of NRW are facing troubles of highly indebtedness. Even in 2011 when the economy was boosting, the state government had a 3-billion-euro (3.9 billion U.S.dollars) shortfall, which was criticized by pro-austerity CUD as "irresponsible."
However, the state poll showed that voters rejected harsh belt-tightening measures and were fed up with slashing public service and welfare to save money. More voters prefer SPD's prescription -- a go-slowly approach to cutting debts and an emphasis on jobs, incentives and growth.
The left momentum, as well as a growing backlash against austerity, following recent elections in Greece and France, were acquiring territory within Germany and could weaken Merkel's position on the European stage, analysts said.
Although the victory in NRW would embolden the Social Democrats to attack Merkel's crisis solution in the federal parliament, the direct impact on Merkel's leading position is disproportionately limited.
An earlier survey from German public television ARD showed that 61 percent of Germans support Merkel's handling of the eurozone crisis and the chancellor remained as the most popular politician in the country.
A recent poll released by German newspaper Bild showed that CDU was still the largest party on the federal level, with 35 percent of support against the SPD's 27 percent.
However, NRW's vote showed that a political fragmentation trend is taking place in Germany, as more smaller parties, such as the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Pirates, made it increasingly difficult for the two big rivals, the CDU and the SPD, to win absolute majorities in the federal and local parliaments.
According to exit poll, the pro-business FDP took about 8.5 percent on Sunday's election, well above its 3 percent of support on the national level, while the Pirate Party, which advocates transparency and internet freedom, secured 7.5 percent and entered its fourth state legislature.
With the retreat in a crucial state, "the floor under Merkel is shaking," as Die Welt stated. The alarm is ringing. It might be the time for the chancellor to rethink her policy as well as the road to the third term.
BERLIN, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The German ruling party was dealt a blow in a landmark state vote on Sunday ahead of the 2013 national elections, latest result of the exit polls showed.
Merkel's right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) was reported to have garnered around 25.5 percent of the votes in election at North Rhine-Westphalia, at the country's most populous state and home to the Ruhr Industrial Region. Full story
BERLIN, March 25 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party started this year's regional election series with a blowout victory in the state of Saarland, while its junior partner in the federal coalition failed to change its destiny and suffered another kick-out, exit polls showed Sunday.
Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) garnered 34.5 percent of the vote, ahead of its main rival Social Democrats (SPD) with some three percentage points, in the regional election of Saarland, a small state with one million people on the French border, exit polls released by German public television ARD and ZDF showed. Full story