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01/21/2013 12:42 AM

Major Setback for Merkel

Last-Minute Win for Germany's SPD and Greens

It was a neck-and-neck race in the German state of Lower Saxony, but ultimately Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives lost. The center-left Social Democrats and environmentalist Green Party have scored an upset victory.

In an upset victory, Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Greens won a pivotal state election in Lower Saxony on Sunday, ousting the incumbent conservative government with a one-seat advantage in the regional parliament.

Although Governor David McAllister's conservative Christian Democratic Union scored the most votes as a single party, at 36 percent, it still failed to gain enough ballots together with its junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), to remain in government. The center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP), garnered 32.6 percent of the votes and the environmentalist Greens 13.7 percent.

The Social Democrats, with their leading candidate Stephan Weil, and the Greens are now expected to form a government. Both the Left Party, which attracted only 3.1 percent of votes, and the Pirates, which ultimately got only 1.5 percent of votes, failed to clear the 5-percent hurdle required for seats in parliament.

Weil will now became the state's next governor, but his victory is largely attributable to significant gains made by the Greens, who scored their best-ever result in the state.

For Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose CDU party has now suffered defeats in the last 13 state elections, Sunday's vote represents another dent in her chances at re-election in September.

Check SPIEGEL International on Monday morning for final Lower Saxony election results, analysis and commentary.

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