Merkel’s party loses power in rich German state

STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives lost power in a regional stronghold yesterday, with early poll results showing the Greens, buoyed by Japan’s nuclear crisis, surging to their first state premiership.

In Baden-Wuerttemberg state, where anti-nuclear sentiment has been mobilised by Japan’s nuclear breakdown, the Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) were set to win 47.3 per cent, eclipsing the Christian Democrats who held power there for six decades.

Merkel’s CDU and their Free Democrat coalition partners, big backers of nuclear power, won a combined 44.3 per cent, according to projections at 1800 GMT in the state of 11 million people.

Analysts said the loss would cause Merkel some headaches in her party, with many disconcerted by recent policy decisions; but they thought an immediate leadership challenge was unlikely.

“The horrible pictures from Japan and the horrible events in Japan was the main issue over the last two weeks,” said defeated CDU state premier Stefan Mappus. “There was no other campaign topic and the winds from Berlin were also blowing against us.”

The CDU, which has governed the state for 58 years, took 39.3 per cent and the FDP 5. The Greens finished second with 24.2 per cent and the SPD, their likely allies, took 23.2 per cent.

“This is a historic victory,” said Winfired Kretschmann, 62, the Greens leader in the state. “We will change things.”

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