Schröder's party is crushed in Bavaria

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The Independent Online

Conservatives inflicted a shattering defeat on Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats in Bavarian state elections yesterday after a campaign attacking the Berlin government's economic reforms.

Exit polls gave the southern German state's governing conservative Christian Social Union 62 per cent of the vote and the Social Democrats 18.7 per cent - the worst result for the party in Bavaria. The result also put the conservatives on course for a two-thirds majority in the Bavarian parliament, which would give the state government sweeping powers to introduce legislation unopposed.

Bavaria's conservative Prime Minister, Edmund Stoiber, 62, who ran against Mr Schröder for the Chancellorship in last year's general election, said his victory was a "wake-up call'' to the government. The result prompted speculation that Mr Stoiber might run for the Chancellorship in 2006.

Franz Maget, the Social Democrat candidate in Bavaria, blamed Mr Schröder's coalition with the Green Party in Berlin for the defeat. "It has never been so difficult for the SPD in Bavaria," he said.