German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition is now on the knife edge as recent opinion polls showed a defeat for her party in regional elections in Germany’s most populous state.
Right after a bad European week for Merkel’s coalition, opinion polls show she will likely face more electoral woes at home as the left-leaning Social Democrats and the Greens are predicted to win the Sunday election in the bellwether state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), a western region of about 18 million residents.
NRW, which is a big industrial state accounting for a fifth of Germany’s economy, is traditionally a center-left stronghold, although the center-right parties that form the national government ran it for five years until 2010.
Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) candidate for the state is environment minister Norbert Roettgen, whose popularity rates in recent opinion polls fell to 20 per cent.
Roettgen also irritated fellow conservatives during a TV-show on Wednesday, after he said the elections would decide "whether Angela Merkel's course in Europe is strengthened or whether it is weakened by the re-election of a pro-debt government in Germany."
However, Merkel said in a newspaper interview that "the election on Sunday is an important state election for North Rhine-Westphalia -- no more and no less." Roettgen then underestimated his remarks, claiming he only meant to address the current state government.
A week earlier, Merkel’s coalition also suffered a setback in a regional election in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.
Meanwhile, a poor result for Merkel’s coalition in the coming election will be considered as a possibility to destabilize her coalition nationally, about 16 months before the national elections.