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The SPD's Klaus Wowereit waves to party faithful after securing a third term as mayor of Berlin yesterday. Markus Schreiber/AP

Merkel faces new struggle after defeat in Berlin polls

Merkel’s CDU gains votes, but loses out to the opposition Social Democrats – while her junior coalition partner loses all seats in Berlin.

GERMANY’S CHANCELLOR Angela Merkel has been handed a fresh political blow after her Christian Democratic Union was roundly defeated in the elections to Berlin’s regional assembly.

While her party recorded an increase on its share of the vote in 2006, up to 23 per cent from 21.3 five years ago, her main opponents the Socialists scored 29 per cent of the vote to emerge as overall winners.

While Merkel’s former coalition allies in the Social Democrats performed well, her new junior partners from the Free Democrats had a miserable outing – falling below the 5 per cent threshold needed to secure any seats in the state legislature, and losing its 13 outgoing members.

Reuters quoted the FDP deputy leader Christian Lindner as saying the results were “a wake-up call”.

While the Green Party also made progress, going from 13 to 18 per cent of the vote, the biggest gains were made by the little-known Pirate Party – which won 8 per cent of the vote, enough to take 15 of the 141 seats in Berlin’s House of Deputies in only its first outing.

Berlin’s outgoing mayor, the SPD’s Klaus Wowereit, secured a third term thanks to the SPD’s performance. He will now proceed to try and forge a coalition, possibly including his previous partners from The Left, though more probably with the Greens.

It is the collapse of the FDP vote, however, which will cause the most concern for Merkel – with its defeat in Berlin marking the sixth time, in seven state elections, that the FDP has been kicked out of state parliaments.

Though there are no federal elections due for a few years, the continual hammering of the FDP indicates a groundswell of opposition to Merkel’s coalition – and could potentially scupper it ahead of some major political obstacles.

The BBC suggests that the FDP could yet decide to leave the coalition entirely – leaving Merkel with a parliamentary minority only a fortnight before the Bundesrat votes on the bill approving the creation of a new permanent Euro bailout fund.

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