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German opposition gains in election

Associated Press / September 5, 2011

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BERLIN - Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition suffered a new setback and Germany’s main opposition parties celebrated gains in a state election yesterday that came as Merkel’s unpopular government grapples with the eurozone debt crisis and other challenges.

The vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a northeastern region where Merkel’s parliamentary constituency is located, was the sixth of seven German state elections this year - several of which have gone poorly for the chancellor’s center-right coalition.

The center-left Social Democrats, who lead the state government but are in opposition nationally, won nearly 37 percent of the vote yesterday - a gain of more than five points compared with five years ago, according to ARD and ZDF television projections based on exit polls and early counting.

The other winners were the opposition Greens. They were projected to win more than 8 percent and enter the state legislature for the first time, which national leader Cem Ozdemir called “a true sensation.’’

But Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union slid to 24 percent from nearly 29 percent in 2006 - an unexpectedly poor result. And their partners in the national government, the Free Democrats, appeared set to score just 3 percent - losing two-thirds of their support and their seats in the state legislature.

“The CDU is, of course, disappointed by this election result,’’ senior federal lawmaker Peter Altmaier told ARD. He added that it pointed to the need “to stand together.’’

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