Merkel’s party faces tough test

Merkel’s party faces tough test

BERLIN - Agence France-Presse
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party faced a drubbing in Germany’s most populous state yesterday as voters cast ballots in a snap election that could provide impetus to her main rivals in the countdown to 2013 national polls.

A week after voters in Greece and France clearly plumped for anti-austerity policies, the citizens of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) could also punish conservative champions of belt-tightening. Some 13.2 million voters, more than a fifth of Germany’s electorate, were choosing a new regional parliament in the bellwether western state which hosts a major industrial base.

The region historically plays a big role in federal politics in 2005, a lost vote in NRW prompted then chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to call a snap federal election which saw Merkel wrest power from him. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is fighting to capture the powerhouse state from a coalition made up of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and ecologist Greens.

Another party to watch is the new-kids-on-the-block Pirate party, which has now entered three state parliaments since September on a platform of more transparency in the political process and Internet freedom.