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Crushing Defeat for Germany's Merkel as Voters Reject Austerity

Common Dreams staff

The victory of socialist François Hollande in the French presidential election was a repudiation of the austerity policies imposed on the euro zone by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, in collaboration with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who had endorsed Sarkozy in the election.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative party suffered a crushing defeat on Sunday in an election in Germany's most populous state, a result which should embolden the left opposition to step up its criticism of her European 'austerity' policies.

The crushing defeat leaves her vulnerable at a time when a backlash against her insistence on austerity is building across Europe. Recent elections have rejected austerity policies in Greece, France and Italy, severely weakening Chancellor Merkel.

According to early projections, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) won 38.8 percent of the vote and will have enough to form a stable majority with the Greens, who scored 12.2 percent.

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The Guardian reports:

Voters in Germany's most populous state handed a resounding victory to the center-left , dealing a heavy blow to Angela Merkel's conservatives in what was interpreted as a backlash against the chancellor's European austerity campaign.

The worst result in the state for the conservatives since 1949Exit polls in the election in North Rhine-Westphalia showed Hannelore Kraft of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) had soundly beat her Christian Democrat (CDU) rival Norbert Röttgen, Merkel's environment minister.

The SPD secured 39% of the vote to the CDU's 26% in what amounted to the worst result in the state for the conservatives since 1949. The Greens took 12%, ensuring that a coalition with the SPD would mean a 10-seat majority in the state parliament. The Free Democratic party (FDP), Merkel's coalition partner in the federal government, took 8.5% of the vote.

The parvenu Pirates party, whose platform is based on greater openness in government through technology, were celebrating their fourth successive entry into a regional parliament after polling 7.5%.

The result in North Rhine-Westphalia – whose 18-million population makes it bigger than EU countries including Greece whose perilous economic situation and Germany's approach to it was often the focus of the campaign – is seen as setting the tone for next year's federal elections.

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