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Anxiety over nuclear power contributes to defeat for Angela Merkel in state held by CDU for sixty years

Tim Montgomerie

Extreme volatility is the big new thing in politics. Yesterday the Australian Labor party wasn't just beaten in New South Wales but "massacred". It was, wrote Jason Groves for ConHome, "the most devastating defeat in Australian political history". 

Last month Angela Merkel's CDU suffered a heavy defeat in Hamburg. Today, according to exit polls, her party is to lose control of the state of Baden-Württemberg - a state that the CDU has held for 58 years.

Atomkraft_nein_danke The Greens - exploiting fears about nuclear power in the wake of the Japanese tsunami - may top the poll, giving them the senior role in a partnership with the SPD. 200,000 anti-nuclear protestors marched in four German cities yesterday, helping to put the issue centre stage in today's voting.

Mrs Merkel had declared a moratorium on extending the life of existing nuclear plants. This announcement was seen by many as opportunistic, however, and hasn't saved her party in BW.

Although it's very unlikely that Mrs Merkel will face a leadership challenge the leader of her junior coalition partner, the FDP's Guido Westervelle may be toppled. Merkel faces no obvious rivals but her "risk-averse and pragmatic" leadership style is being criticised by members of her party. The Wall Street Journal (£) reports:

"Besides the nuclear question,and the euro zone's debt crisis, Ms. Merkel has also taken flak across the political spectrum for her handling of the euro-zone debt crisis—in which her decisions to bail out near-bankrupt Greece and to pump rising amounts of taxpayer money into a safety net for other countries proved controversial—and on the Libyan conflict, where she is accused of failing to back Germany's Western allies."

The results from Germany will encourage Alex Salmond to put the nuclear issue at the heart of his last-ditch campaign to save the SNP government in Holyrood. Trailing in most opinion surveys, the Scottish First Minister sees an opportunity in Scottish Labour's support for the nuclear industry. Herald Scotland reports Mr Salmond attacking Labour's "obsession" with nuclear power. “Different visions of the energy future of Scotland will clearly be a significant issue in the election campaign,” he promised.


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