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News Analysis: Merkel to face rehearsal election in Lower Saxony


15:51, January 18, 2013

BERLIN, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- A key election is scheduled to be held in German state of Lower Saxony on Sunday. The state election is considered as a rehearsal for the federal one in autumn, and will test the survival chances of the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As at the federal level, Lower Saxony is currently under rules of coalition between Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP). In the upcoming election, the coalition faces challenges from Social Democratic Party (SPD) and its Greens ally.

A poll result released on Thursday showed that CDU in Lower Saxony, led by state governor David McAllister, attracted 41 percent of votes, 8 points ahead of SPD. FDP, however, earned only 5 percent of support, hardly meeting the minimum threshold to enter the parliament, while the Greens got 13 percent in the poll.

Despite his great popularity in Lower Saxony, the fourth biggest state in Germany by population, McAllister would find it impossible to retain his post if FDP failed to get into the state parliament, which would make the governing coalition lose its majority.

Something similar could happen nationally. Latest figures showed on Wednesday that 59 percent of Germans would choose Merkel if they could elect their chancellor directly. Her SPD challenger Peer Steinbrueck got a much fewer support of 18 percent.

In the same poll by Forsa institute, CDU and its sister Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria scored 43 percent, much more than 23 percent and 14 percent of votes respectively attracted by SPD and Greens. FDP, however, gained only 3 percent, less than 5 percent needed to re-enter Bundestag, lower house of federal parliament. The Left Party got 8 percent.

Observers believed that if FDP was thrown out of the parliament in Lower Saxony, home state of its chairman Philipp Roesler, the party's momentum in the federal election campaign would be affected. Roesler's resignation as the party's head would be possible as early as Sunday night.

Some CDU politicians in Lower Saxony have called for some of their supporters to vote for FDP on Sunday to ensure it remain in the parliament. The idea, however, was resisted by both McAllister and Merkel. In an election, each party should battle for itself, they said.

With CDU and CSU's national supporting rate of above 40 percent and Merkel's great personal popularity of above 50 percent, it seemed for sure that Merkel will lead the Europe's largest economy for another four years. But FDP's performance still matters.

If FDP loses in Lower Saxony, it will be possible for SPD and Greens to form a coalition with majority in the state parliament. CDU's strength in the Bundesrat, upper house of federal parliament which represents interests of each state, will be further weakened. Merkel's new government may thus face more hurdles for implementing policies such as energy transition.

If FDP finally fails to enter Bundestag, Merkel will have to seek coalition with either SPD or Greens, both of which are much stronger than FDP, and her influence in the new coalition government is likely to be declined.

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