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Angela Merkel's CDU suffers devastating defeat in bellwether election

Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has suffered a major setback 16 months ahead of national elections, losing a poll in the country's most populous state with a record low level of support.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a press conference at the Christian Democrats' headquarters in Berlin on March 28, 2011. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has suffered a major setback 16 months ahead of national elections, losing a poll in the country's most populous state with a record low level of support.

The Wall Street Journal described the result of the election in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) as a disaster.

The WSJ cited German newspapers as interpreting the defeat as the beginning of Merkel's own political end.

"Catastrophe for the CDU," the mass-circulation Bild wrote Monday, adding the result would "make things difficult for Chancellor Angela Merkel," while Die Welt commented, "the ground is shaking beneath Angela Merkel."

According to Xinhua, exit polls showed that the CDU took just 26 percent of votes, nearly 9 percentage points lower than in 2010 and the party's worst performance in the state since 1945.

The SPD, meantime, won 39 percent of the vote according to preliminary results, up from 34.5 percent, securing a parliamentary majority.

The loss by Merkel's CDU would make the Chancellor's life more difficult because the stronger center-left opposition would demand more concessions from Germany’s austerity policy, the WSJ wrote.

More from GlobalPost: Merkel holds the line on austerity

The New York Times linked the win in NRW by the center-left Social Democrats' (SPD) with the French Socialists' victory in the presidential elections there last weekend which saw her center-right ally on Europe, Nicolas Sarkozy, thrown out after one term. 

Merkel is due to meet in Berlin with France's new Socialist president-elect Francois Hollande in two days time.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/120514/angela-merkel-germany-election-north-rhine-westphalia-berlin