Merkel surfs popularity wave before key state vote

Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:12am EST
 

By Erik Kirschbaum

STADE, Germany (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel doesn't make rousing speeches, but she had 1,200 supporters wildly cheering her standard sober delivery, fired up about their brightening chances of winning a key regional election on Sunday.

At a campaign rally in the northern town of Stade late on Thursday, Merkel and Lower Saxony state premier David McAllister exhorted an enthusiastic crowd of Christian Democrats (CDU) to ensure a high turnout for the election of the regional assembly, which in turn chooses the state premier.

Merkel's CDU has been battered by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens in 12 regional elections stretching back to 2009. A come-from-behind win in Lower Saxony would end that losing streak and give the chancellor a timely lift for her own re-election hopes in September.

"We're all excited about the outcome on Sunday," said Merkel, who is seeking a third term against the SPD, which is on the ropes thanks to blunders by Peer Steinbrueck, its candidate for Merkel's job.

"And it's not only the people of Lower Saxony who are interested in this election. It's a pivotal election. So get out and talk to your friends and neighbors and tell them how important this is," she added.

SWING STATE

Lower Saxony, an industrial and farming heartland and Germany's fourth most populous state, can go either way; both the center-left and center-right have taken turns running the vast region bordering the Netherlands and North Sea.

If the CDU can hold power in Lower Saxony for a third straight term on Sunday, it would send a powerful signal across Germany and galvanize Merkel supporters.   Continued...

 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel smells roasted coffee beans at the Internationale Gruene Woche (International Green Week) agriculture and food fair on its opening day in Berlin January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch