A state election, likely due in May. will be a big test of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity.
Her Christian Democrat (CDU) Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen is standing in North Rhine-Westphalia and polls give them 33 percent. However, Roettgen says he will not leave his national position for an opposition role at state level if his party loses.
Merkel’s coalition partners, the liberal FDPs, may be the weak link with recent polls putting them at only two percent – making success a hard task for their candidate Christian Lindner.
The snap election is due to the dissolution of the coalition between Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens after they failed to get their budget plans approved. Big cities and heavy industry traditionally made the state a stronghold of the left. The SPD Green coalition had been in charge since 2010.
North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most densely-populated area with 18 million residents.
Although the Chancellor is supported by around two thirds of Germans, a loss for her FDP coalition partners could cause them to take a tougher stance against her in order to boost their own standing. This happened recently when the FDP pushed for Joachim Gauck as German president against Merkel’s wishes.