Exit polls suggest that Germany’s Social Democrats have trounced Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right party in a regional election in the country’s most populous state.
Centre-left candidate Hannelore Kraft, who together with the Greens, has run a minority government in North Rhein-Westfalia over the past two years, promised a slower reduction in public spending.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats represented by environment minister Norbert Röttgen polled its lowest ever score in the state at just 26 percent versus the Social Democrats 39 percent.
The Greens achieved 12 percent and the recently created Pirate Party scored 7.5 percent.
Merkel has claimed the state government, which represents a population of nearly 18 million people, has mismanaged its finances and was ready to increase its debt.
Political analysts say Sunday’s result, could position the left to make further gains during next year’s federal election.