CDU defeat in Lower Saxony ups stakes for German national election

The stakes have been raised for Chancellor Angela Merkel's fight for a third term in office in this year's national polls, following the narrow defeat of her coalition in a key state election on Sunday.

The stakes have been raised for Chancellor Angela Merkel's fight for a third term in office in this year's national polls, following the narrow defeat of her coalition in a key state election on Sunday.

Merkel's centre right alliance with the FDP [Free Democrat party] was narrowly ousted in Lower Saxony - a state of eight million people- in favour of a centre-left opposition with the SDP [Social Democrat Party] and the Greens after a cliffhanger vote.

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While the Christian Democrat Party gained the largest proportion of votes in Lower Saxony with 36%, the combination of this and the 9.9% vote achieved by the FDP wasn't enough to beat the centre-left opposition which took the state by just one seat.

Some commentators speculated that the defeat could be in part blamed on tactical voting following CDU Governor David McAllister appearing to encourage his supporters to split their ballot to ensure the FDP would clear the 5.0% hurdle needed to remain in parliament.

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The strategy appeared to work, but the CDU's own vote contracted sharply. Polling institute dimap estimated that around 101,000 CDU voters had voted for the FDP.

While the election result doesn't come at a critical time for the Chancellor- there is another eight months until the national election- it does indicate that the popular leader will have a fight on her hands if she wishes to retain her position for another four years.

Merkel has won praise for ensuring Germany avoids falling into a recession and for minimising the ramifications of the eurocrisis for the country's residents.

German business newspaper Handelsblatt ran a story referring to the impact of the Lower Saxony CDU defeat for SPD Chancellor candidate Peer Steinbruek.

"Steinbruek's luck is Merkel's nightmare," ran the story's headline which proceeded to describe how Sunday's election signalled the SPD contender's return to the offensive in an election campaign in which he had been criticised for making a series of gaffes.

Steinbrueck, who reportedly earned more than 1m euros for public speaking engagements in the past three years, caused a storm when he commented that German chancellors should be paid better. The opinion led some to speculate as to whether he was in the election race for money.

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