Merkel blames Fukushima for poll defeat
German Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democratic Union Angela Merkel addresses a news conference after a party board meeting in Berlin yesterday. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, suffered a humiliating blow in a regional election at the weekend after voters panicking over nuclear power in the aftermath of events in Japan backed the Green Party.
Mrs Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union lost in the vital election in the prosperous south-western region of Baden-Wurttemberg, where her party had ruled for nearly 60 years.
The Green Party looks set to have its first state premier following the election, seen as a referendum on the country's nuclear energy policy. Mrs Merkel attributed the defeat to the Japanese nuclear disaster.
"The debate in connection with the Japanese nuclear plant of Fukushima was clearly what led to our defeat. My view of atomic energy has changed since the events in Japan," she said.
For Mrs Merkel, a native of Baden-Wurttemberg, the loss of her home state and a bastion of Christian Democrat power came as a "very painful" blow.
"It's a deep wound in the history of Baden-Wurttemberg and also in the history of the CDU," Mrs Merkel said.
"The pain from this loss won't go away in just one day. We'll have to work for a long time to overcome the pain from this defeat."
The Greens doubled their share of the vote as they rose to 24.4pc in the election.
After Sunday's poll, the Greens prepared to go into government with the left-wing Social Democrats, and, as the bigger of the two parties, they should appoint the premier.
"We've achieved a historic election victory," said a jubilant Winfried Kretschmann, who is likely to become the Greens' first state premier.
The chancellor had come under fire for a sudden about-turn on nuclear energy in the lead-up to the election.
Reversing a decision she made last year to prolong the lifespan of the country's reactors, Mrs Merkel announced that seven of the oldest reactors would be shut down pending a safety review. (© Daily Telegraph, London)