Opposition Wins Major State Vote In Germany

Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia, have delivered a major blow to the ruling party, the Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz talks with Michael Kolz, the chief political reporter for German station Phoenix, about why the results in North Rhine Westphalia matter and what they mean for the left-wing Social Democrats.

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Voters in Germany's most populous state, North Rhine Westphalia, have delivered a major blow to the ruling party, the Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The left-wing Social Democrats look set to form the next governing coalition there. It's the worst showing for the Christian Democrats in that state since the Second World War and could be a sign that German voters are growing weary of her tough line on fiscal discipline.

Joining me now on the line from Bonn is Michael Kolz. He's a political reporter for Phoenix, which is Germany's national political news network. Michael, why is this result in North Rhine Westphalia such a blow for Chancellor Merkel?

MICHAEL KOLZ: Because it did not appear that the Christian Democrats would suffer such a big loss. I mean, they were actually performing pretty well throughout the last state elections, but the North Rhine Westphalia is the most important, biggest and most powerful state, and nobody expected the red and greens to take such a big win.

RAZ: The greens, of course, the Green Party and the reds, Social Democrats.

KOLZ: Yeah. And Merkel actually had a serious problem in terms of having the right candidate, probably. So a lot of it goes back to their candidate, and he stepped down tonight.

RAZ: This election, of course, doesn't change national politics and national balance of power in Germany. Merkel is still the chancellor. But what does it say about national elections, which are expected to be held late next year?

KOLZ: Oh, people are getting nervous, especially in the governing coalition. I mean, they - since North Rhine Westphalia, as I mentioned, is the most powerful state. So when this is coming up with a big victory for the Social Democrats and the Green Party, most people in the governing coalition are a little nervous now that it's too short an amount of time until next year, and they could possibly not recover from this loss tonight.

RAZ: That's Michael Kolz. He's a political reporter for the German TV network Phoenix. Michael, thanks.

KOLZ: Thank you.

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