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Merkel’s main rival SPD wins state election in Lower Saxony

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU) suffers a significant setback by losing more supporters in a key state as a rival party and a potential partner in her future coalition government manages to win the elections.

Exit polls of the regional elections in Lower Saxony announced on Sunday showed that the Social Democrats (SPD) gained 37.5 percent of the votes, while the CDU took 35 percent.

The CDU which well outperformed the SPD and won recent elections in Germany, had garnered 36 percent of the votes in the last election in Lower Saxony in 2013. The SPD, a partner in previous federal governments which has now decided to go into opposition, has governed the state with the Greens over the past four years.

The defeat in Lower Saxony, home to carmaker Volkswagen and rich in agriculture, is a setback for Merkel as she struggles to form a trilateral coalition with two low-ranking parties of the September parliamentary votes, namely the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens.

The so-called Jamaica coalition, the name chosen to designate the rare form of partnership between the three parties whose colors match those of the flag of Jamaica, has proven to be difficult from the very beginning. Merkel has lost the support of many voters over her liberal asylum policy and now she faces a difficult task of reaching agreement with the Greens and the FDP on issues like immigration, European Union reform, tax and environmental protection.

The votes in Lower Saxony, a key state with around six million eligible voters and slightly bigger than the Netherlands, came after a Greens lawmaker defected to Merkel’s CDU, causing the SPD-Greens coalition to lose its majority and triggering a snap election.

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