Merkel party leads in key state vote
THE party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was in the lead Sunday after the first state polls of a general election year, initial results showed.
But even with the initial result, the race for a ruling coalition rested on a knife-edge, a report by Agence France Presse (AFP) indicated.
Preliminary results from Lower Saxony on public television showed Merkel’s Christian Democrats leading with around 36 per cent and their current coalition partners, the Free Democrats, with about 10 per cent. The Social Democrats had about 32 per cent and their favoured allies – the Greens – 13 per cent.
Detailed figures pointed to a wafer-thin lead for the incumbent centre-right, the same coalition with which Merkel governs in Berlin.
But the cliffhanger campaign was due to develop throughout the night as results trickle in, determining which coalition will come out on top eight months before a national election that will decide if Merkel wins a third term.
The Christian Democrats (CDU) were down from their 42.5 per cent score at the last election in 2008 but appeared to benefit from the popularity of state premier David McAllister, a half-Scot seen as a potential Merkel successor.
The big winners of the night, however, were the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who looked to tally their best result in Lower Saxony in post-war history.
Polls had indicated they risked slipping below the five per cent hurdle required for seats in the state parliament, but they seemed to get a lift from conservative voters splitting their ballots under Germany’s two-vote system in a bid to rescue the coalition.