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* Merkel suffers setback in home state among euro fears
* Merkel's FDP allies routed, knocked out of state assembly
* Centre-left SPD scores another big 2011 victory
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Sept 4 Chancellor Angela Merkel's
centre-right bloc suffered another stinging defeat on Sunday in
a regional election in Germany's poorest state,
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, with both her conservatives and their
Free Democrat allies losing support.
With the euro zone crisis looming, Merkel's Christian
Democrats fell to 23.3 percent from 28.8 percent in 2006,
according to a TV projection. It was the CDU's worst-ever
showing in the sparsely populated state on the Baltic shore.
"We're disappointed that the CDU lost so much support," said
Peter Altmaier, a senior CDU lawmaker in Berlin and close ally
of Merkel. Altmaier said the CDU was in a difficult spot
nationally due in part to the euro zone sovereign debt crisis.
The Free Democrats (FDP) were only an opposition party in
the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern assembly but crashed out with a
result below the 5 percent threshold -- just 2.8 percent, from
9.6 percent in 2006. The result may raise pressure on the FDP to
dump unpopular Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
"There's no reason to throw in the towel now even though
this defeat has a bitter taste," said FDP deputy party leader
Christian Lindner, trying to douse speculation about
Westerwelle. "No one should write off the FDP. We're going to
Worries about the prolonged euro zone crisis cast a shadow
over the campaign ahead of a crucial vote in the Berlin
parliament on euro zone bailout reforms in late September.
It has been a difficult year for Merkel. Two years ahead of
the next scheduled federal election, the CDU is also slumping in
national polls -- in part due to general discontent over Merkel
and over her hesitant leadership during the euro zone crisis.
"We've have proven ourselves to be reliable and solid," said
election's big winner, state premier Erwin Sellering of the
centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) -- who are the main
opposition party in Berlin even though they ruled with the CDU
in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 2006.
"And everyone who looks at the CDU-FDP government down in
Berlin can see that they are neither reliable nor solid," he
added. The SPD vote rose to 36.8 percent from 30.2 percent.
FAR-RIGHT NPD WINS SEATS
The SPD could continue the coalition with the CDU or switch
to the Left, which won 18.2 percent, or the Greens, which won
seats in the state for the first time ever with 8.2 percent.
Sellering would not say if he would pick the CDU as his
coalition partner or the Left party or even the Greens.
The CDU and FDP have suffered a string of bitter setbacks in
six state elections this year. The CDU lost control of two
states -- Hamburg and Baden-Wuerttemberg -- it had long ruled.
The far-right NPD also appeared to have won seats in the
state assembly again with 5.9 percent, just clearing the five
percent hurdle, after they won 7.3 percent in 2006.
"There was an incredible smear campaign against us," NPD
leader Udo Pastoers said in an ARD TV interview.
The poor results in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were a personal
setback for Merkel, who campaigned heavily in the state of 1.6
million with nine appearances. Merkel's constituency is also
located in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Yet another election defeat for the CDU will likely raise
nervousness among backbenchers in the Berlin parliament worried
about their job security. Merkel's coalition faces a difficult
vote on the euro zone bailout on Sept. 29 and there are already
fears that not enough coalition deputies will back Merkel.
The Greens, riding high in the wake of the Japanese nuclear
disaster, cleared the five percent hurdle in the state for the
first time and now have seats in all 16 states -- also a first.
"Merkel is going to need to have some long and hard thinking
about yet another regional election loss," said Cem Oezdemir, a
Greens party leader in Berlin. He added that even though it was
only a state election, "there is a clear message for Berlin."
(additional reporting by Brian Rohan, editing by Rosalind