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German Social Democrats Take Power in Schleswig-Holstein State

June 12, 2012

The Social Democrats took power in Germany’s northernmost state with a three-way coalition more than a month after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party had its worst result in more than 50 years there.

Schleswig-Holstein State Prime Minister Torsten Albig, a former federal Finance Ministry spokesman who turned to politics in 2009 as the mayor of state capital Kiel, won 37 of 69 votes in the regional assembly today, the legislature said on its website. Albig’s SPD forged a partnership with the Green Party and a minority Danish-speaking party, the SSW.

The change in power weakened Merkel’s position in the upper house of parliament, or Bundesrat, which comprises representatives from the 16 states. The Bundesrat has blocked legislation from Merkel’s coalition, including tax cuts and a tax treaty with Switzerland.

Merkel lost her majority in the Bundesrat in 2010 after her Christian Democratic Union was ousted from Germany’s most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Half the states now have a Social Democratic premier; one is led by the Greens.

The May 6 vote in Schleswig-Holstein, sandwiched between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, placed Albig’s SPD within reach of power after Merkel’s CDU had its lowest share of the vote since 1950. That defeat foreshadowed an even worse result for Merkel a week later in North-Rhine Westphalia, where the CDU suffered its worst showing since World War II.

Merkel then fired her environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, who oversaw the party’s campaign in the western state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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