Merkel defiant after poll loss

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The Independent Online

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives suffered defeat in two out of three key German state elections yesterday, opening the way for a controversial coalition between Social Democrats and the reformed communist Left Party in the western Saarland region for the first time.

Ms Merkel's party was drubbed in Saarland and the east German state of Thuringia where support for her Christian Democrats dropped by more than 10 per cent.

The Chancellor, who is supported by 59 per cent of the electorate according to recent polls, insisted that the results would not influence the outcome of Germany's general election on 27 September. "The state elections are not a test run for a national poll," she said.

In Saarland, the Left Party and its candidate, "Red" Oskar Lafontaine, a renegade former Social Democrat national leader, made huge gains, winning 19 per cent of the vote, with the Social Democrats polling 26 per cent. The result put the Left Party on course to form a possible coalition with the Social Democrats for the first time in a western state since Germany's reunification. The Social Democrats have so far ruled out such coalitions at national level.

National opinion polls show that Ms Merkel is on course to win Germany's September election and form a coalition with the liberal Free Democrats. Her party is assuming that a so-called "Chancellor bonus" – resulting from Ms Merkel's personal popularity – will help it to win.

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