German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference at the Christian Democrats (CDU) headquarters in Berlin on March 28, 2011. Merkel's conservatives lost power in their German heartland after nearly six decades.
Credit: Odd Anderson

Japan's nuclear disaster played a major role in the defeat Sunday of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition in elections in the prosperous state of Baden-Wuerttemberg after 58 straight years of rule.

Merkel's coalition of the center-right CDU and the free market oriented Free Democratic Party (FDP) lost their majority in Baden-Wuerttemberg to the Green party and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who have announced they intend to form a coalition government there.

Anti-nuclear sentiment had risen in Baden-Wuerttemberg following the Japanese disaster. Merkel's government last year scrapped a 2000 law to shut down nuclear power by 2022 even though polls showed most were opposed to scrapping it, Reuters reported.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said Monday that Germany should shut its nuclear power plants faster than planned, according to Reuters. Roettgen, a close ally of Merkel, said the loss of Baden-Wuerttemberg, a state where a large share of the nation's car and engineering industry is located, showed the public wanted a quicker exit.

"We have to now show that we can get away from nuclear energy faster and that the switch to renewable energy is possible," he said.

"It's a deep wound in the history of Baden-Wuerttemberg and also in the history of the CDU," Merkel told a news conference, referring to the party she heads, the Christian Democratic Union.

Until Sunday's vote, Baden-Wuerttemberg was a traditional stronghold of Merkel's Christian Democrats, having governed there without interruption since 1953.

"The pain from this loss won't go away in just one day. We'll have to work for a long time to overcome the pain from this defeat," Merkel said, Reuters reported

The defeat, while unlikely to derail parliamentary support for euro zone rescue measures, might bring uncertainty in financial markets, NBC quoted a financial analyst as saying.

German lawmakers won’t vote on the rescue package measures until September, a delay which could make markets jittery, the analyst reportedly said.


— Freya Petersen

Related Stories