The German chancellor says the defeat of her party in the country's biggest state was a bitter pill to swallow. However, she insists this will have no bearing on the outcome of next year's federal election.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her center-right coalition government will stay the course, despite a heavy electoral defeat suffered by her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the country's most populous state.
The chancellor told reporters in Berlin on Monday that she planned no changes to the cabinet, and that Norbert Röttgen, the CDU's defeated candidate for premier in North Rhine-Westphalia, would retain his post as German environment minister.
Following Sunday's defeat, Röttgen resigned as head of the party in the state and expressed his wish to remain in Merkel's cabinet.
Merkel described her party's worst-ever election result in the state, with just 26.3 percent of the vote, as a "bitter, painful defeat."
However, she refused to take any personal responsibility for the result, saying that although as chairperson she is "part of the big CDU family," this was, after all not a federal, but a state election.
In Sunday's election, the Social Democrats, led by Premier Hannelore Kraft, took 39.1 percent of the vote, while their coalition partners, the Greens took 11.3 percent. This gives them a comfortable majority in the legislature in Düsseldorf, after having served as a minority government since the 2010 election.
Looking ahead to the next year's federal election, Chancellor Merkel said her party's best strategy was to get on with doing a “good job” running the country for the rest of its term in office.
Staying the course in Europe
This, she said, meant sticking to the government's current policy, which focuses on cutting public debt. With a view to her first meeting with newly elected French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday, Merkel indicated no willingness to compromise on Germany's insistence that their European partners get their financial houses in order too.
"It does not affect the work we have to do in Europe," Merkel said, referring to Sunday's state vote.
Tuesday's meeting will be watched closely for any signs of a rift between the conservative Merkel and Hollande, a Socialist, who has said that he wants to renegotiate the European Union's new fiscal pact, which requires governments to get their financial houses in order. Merkel has said that she, like Hollande, supports the idea of creating economic growth. However, she argues that taking on further credit to do so would be counter-productive.
pfd/sej (Reuters, AFP, dpa)