German coalition stronger after vote

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Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition government of conservatives and Social Democrats emerged strengthened by German state elections yesterday in which the country's ruling parties won significant victories in two regional polls.

In the southern conservative stronghold of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats won 44 per cent of the vote putting her party on course to govern the state with an absolute majority.

Her Social Democrat coalition partners fared equally well in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, taking 45 per cent of the vote, inflicting one of the worst defeats on the opposition conservatives in the party's history.

In a third regional election in the eastern state of Saxony Anhalt, Mrs Merkel's governing conservatives lost the support of their liberal Free Democrat coalition partners.

However, the Christian Democrats were expected to form an alliance with the Social Democrats echoing Germany's grand coalition government in Berlin.

The main losers were the Free Democrats - the small liberal party - which appeared to be on course to be ousted from power in an all three states.