The defeat of the ruling coalition in Lower Saxony’s state election on Sunday was by the narrowest of margins; the SPD’s Stefan Weil along with the Greens holds a one-seat majority.
But the defeat opens an enormous breach in the CDU-FDP defences with the general election looming in the autumn.
“Twelve state elections without a majority for the chancellor. What we can say today I think is that the Federal election is wide open, dear friends! We will be fighting, we will be using the political concept from lower Saxony nationwide,” said SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel.
It also means control of the German senate will now remain in the hands of the SPD-Greens even after the September election. It will be able to block government legislation at will.
Angela Merkel also regretted the loss of the outgoing leader, David McAllister.
“I’m not going to pretend, after all the feelings generated by this election. Defeat hurts even more. We are all sad today. Sad that it didn’t work.
But as someone in the CDU leadership board correctly stated, we have had worse defeats in the past,” she said.
One SPD politician quipped Merkel, whose personal popularity remains head and shoulders over the rest of the political pack, is now a “queen without a country”.