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Merkel faces key election test in Lower Saxony

Merkel faces key election test in Lower Saxony
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The German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces a tough election year in 2013. In a rehearsal for the federal vote in September, the campaign has begun for a state election in Lower Saxony in two weeks’ time.

Nationally, Merkel’s Christian Democrats are sitting comfortably on around 40 per cent in the polls, although their coalition partners the Free Democrats are in the doldrums.

The Chancellor said she wanted the coalition to continue, although each party fought its own battles first.

“The CDU in Lower Saxony – I see the same on a Federal level – said their work was successful and we want that to go on. I’m certain that in the next two weeks we will get that message over. As for the polls – while recognising that polls don’t decide elections but votes do – you can see I’m very optimistic we’ll be successful,” she told supporters in Wilhelmshaven.

Merkel’s rival, the Social Democrat candidate for chancellor and former German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck has his sights firmly set on September’s federal election.

He told a rally in Emden that in recent years his CDU opponents had lost many states:
“We want to continue this development in Lower Saxony on January 20th, that could be an excellent starting point for the general election in September this year.”

Steinbrueck is likely to attack Merkel’s handling of the crisis. But the Chancellor’s popularity could be a hindrance.

In her New Year message, Merkel warned the economic climate would become even more difficult.