BBC News & Al Jazeera – 2011-03-27 20:12:02
Germany: Angela Merkel ‘Loses Key State Election’
Stephen Evans / BBC News
BERLIN (March 27, 2011) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats have lost the key state of Baden-Wuerttemberg after six decades, preliminary results show.
The results gave the Greens 24.2% and their Social Democrat allies 23.1%, with Mrs Merkel’s party on 39% and its Free Democrat (FDP) allies on 5.3%. Nuclear power, following the accident in Japan, was a key issue.
The vote in the wealthy southwestern state was seen as a referendum on Mrs Merkel’s rule. The region, around Stuttgart, has a population of some 11 million and has been ruled by the Christian Democrats since 1953.
If the Greens do go into coalition with the Social Democrats, it will be the first time they have held power in a state.
Green party spokesman Franz Untersteller said: “It’s a dream come true… we could never have dreamed of a result like this a few days ago.”
Christian Democrat state governor Stefan Mappus, an advocate of nuclear energy, said: “Voters were touched by the terrible events in Japan; those images still haunt people today.”
Polling stations closed in Baden-Wuerttemberg at 1600 GMT in an election where the opposition was energised by the nuclear crisis following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11 March.
Nobody thinks this is a government riding the crest of a wave of adulation. The old “Teflon” chancellor is not bestriding the land.
Mrs Merkel doesn’t have to hold a federal election until 2013, but may now be forced to call one earlier.
She may hope the economy strengthens her ratings, but the difficulty in that hope is that Baden-Wuerttemberg is the most prosperous part of Germany – and the voters there showed little gratitude to the party of government for that.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Germans took part in what were thought to be the country’s biggest-ever protests against nuclear power.
Mrs Merkel had tried to ease concerns by suspending for three months a decision to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear reactors. Four are based in Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Another key issue was the plan for a big railway project that could transform the centre of Stuttgart.
The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin says Mrs Merkel had been accused of bending with the wind on other issues — such as eurozone bailouts — and she now faces a coalition torn by factions.
Mrs Merkel had already suffered damaging defeats in North Rhine-Westphalia last May and in Hamburg in February.
In another state election on Sunday, in Rhineland-Palatinate, preliminary results showed another huge boost for the Greens. They were reported to have trebled their vote to 15.4%, meaning that the Social Democrats, who were set to fall 9.9 percentage points to 35.7%, would need them for a coalition.
The Christian Democrats rose 2.5 points to 35.3%, the initial results showed. The FDP, led by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, fell below the 5% needed to gain any representation in the state.
The FDP’s Rainer Bruedele, the economy minister, said it was a “bitter defeat”.
Merkel’s Party Headed for German Poll Debacle
BERLIN (March 27, 2011) — Germany’s anti-nuclear Green Party has scored a remarkable state election victory, dealing a blow to the party of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, according to preliminary poll results.
The Greens won 24.2 percent in wealthy Baden-Wuerttemberg state while the Social Democracts (SPD) finished at 23.2 percent, meaning Greens state leader Winfried Kretschmann will lead a Greens-SPD state government.
“This is a day that has strongly changed the political landscape in Germany,” Claudia Roth, the Greens party chairwoman, said in Berlin.
Losing Baden-Wuerttemberg, which lies on the French and Swiss borders and is home to car makers Daimler and Porsche, would weaken Merkel’s grip on her party and make it even harder for her to pass legislation in the upper house of parliament.
The Baden-Wuerttemberg state election has been overshadowed by anger at the Merkel’s nuclear policy, as well as decisions on Libya and the euro. The Christian Democrats had held power there for almost six decades.
Some in the media have attributed the Greens’ lead, at least in part, to the nuclear crisis in Japan.
Merkel had planned to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear reactors, four of which are based in Baden-Wuerttemberg, but the disaster in Japan prompted her to suspend this decision for three months.
She also temporarily shut off the seven oldest reactors pending a safety review.
Nick Spicer, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reporting from Stuttgart, said that the decision had not played well with voters, most of whom are opposed to nuclear power.
“People here didn’t like it when she [Merkel] extended the life of those nuclear plants and then she announced, after the Japanese disaster, a re-think, of her policy,” he said.
“But most people are seeing that as political opportunism, a ploy to distract voters from her policy which the majority of Germans actually don’t support.”
In addition, conservative voters are critical of Berlin’s abstention from a UN Security Council vote to create a no-fly zone in Libya, a break with Germany”s Western allies.
German media has also been critical of Merkel for agreeing at an EU summit on Thursday to commit to a huge new rescue fund for struggling Eurozone economies.
Merkel”s future could be clouded if the CDU loses. When Gerhard Schroeder, Merkel”s SPD predecessor as chancellor, lost North Rhine-Westphalia in 2005, he called a snap election and lost.
Germany Stages Anti-nuclear Marches after Fukushima
BBC World News
â€œFukushima hasn’t taught us anything we didn’t already know.â€
— Renate Kuenast Greens’ Parliamentary Leader
BONN (March 26, 2011) — Tens of thousands of Germans have taken part in what are thought to be the country’s biggest-ever protests against nuclear power, in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.
Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne all saw huge rallies. The marches were held on the eve of state elections in Baden-Wuerttemberg, where nuclear power is a key issue.
Japan is still struggling to stabilise the Fukushima plant, crippled by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March.
Police in Berlin said more than 100,000 people had taken part in the march there – double the number anticipated by organisers, Ausgestrahlt (Irradiated). Up to 40,000 were estimated to have been on the streets in Hamburg, Munich and Cologne.
“Today’s demonstrations are just the prelude to a new, strong, anti-nuclear movement. We’re not going to let up until the plants are finally mothballed,” said Ausgestrahlt spokesman Jochen Stay.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced shortly after the Japanese earthquake that seven of Germany’s oldest reactors would be shut down while safety checks were carried out. She also announced a three-month moratorium on extending the lives of others.
Baden-Wuerttemberg has been held by Ms Merkel’s CDU party for nearly six decades, but the Greens and Social Democrats are expected to make a strong showing at the polls.
Parliamentary Green leader Renate Kuenast says Ms Merkel should have acted sooner on nuclear power.
“She already knew that planes could crash into a nuclear plant, that technical and human errors could occur. So Fukushima hasn’t taught us anything we didn’t already know,” Ms Kuenast said.
One demonstrator, Ulrike Avenhaus, said: “Fukushima showed to everyone that there are risks after all and that we should probably reconsider whether our nuclear plants are as safe as politicians always tell us.
“Each and every nuclear plant is a source of danger and can potentially blow up. That’s why they all need to be shut down.”
Another, Monika Flemming, said: “I came here to call for nuclear reactors to be stopped because I firmly intend to die of old age rather than radiation poisoning.”
Germany — which was hit by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster — has long had a large body of public opposition to nuclear power. It currently gets some 23% of its electric power from reactors.
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