German coalition 'suffers key regional poll loss'
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party and its coalition allies have been defeated in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia, exit polls suggest. If confirmed, this would see Mrs Merkel's national coalition lose its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
+++ CDU: 34.3%; SPD: 34.7; Greens: 12.4% (WIN!); FDP: 6.5% (so much FAIL!); LINKE: 5.6%; others: 6.5% (incl. Pirates) +++
If confirmed, this would see Mrs Merkel's national coalition lose its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
The campaign has been overshadowed by the government's decision to contribute to a huge rescue package for Greece.
Meanwhile many cities in NRW are on the brink of bankruptcy.
North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state and home to 18 million people, is in the country's industrial heartland and regarded as a weathervane for national politics.
Angela Merkel's CDU could suffer because of the Greek rescue packa ut decision
Ms Merkel had campaigned in the state until the last minute, but the exit polls appear to confirm earlier polls that suggested the ruling coalition was trailing the combined vote of opponents including the Social Democrats, Greens and former communist Left Party.
The ARD television exit poll suggests that Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats received 34.5% of Sunday's vote, while the Free Democrats got 6.5%. The same poll suggests the opposition Social Democrats received 34.5%, the Greens 12.5% and the Left Party 6%.
The coalition in NRW between Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats mirrored the one at the federal level.
A new coalition in NRW, ending Chancellor Merkel's majority in the upper house the Bundesrat, would jeopardise long-promised tax cuts and health system reforms.
The BBC's Oana Lungescu, in the city of Wuppertal, says this was the first political test for the chancellor's centre-right coalition since it came to power six months ago.
With the economic crisis dominating the campaign, opponents accused Mrs Merkel of attempting to delay a decision on the hugely unpopular rescue package for Greece until after the poll.
Our correspondent says local councils in NRW are sinking into debt, with rising kindergarten fees, and libraries and swimming-pools closing. She adds that in Wuppertal, even the theatre is under threat.
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