Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union suffered a bruising defeat on Sunday night in the election of a new parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, when the centre-left opposition of Social Democrats and Greens won a clear majority.


The outcome will be seen as a rejection by voters of the strict austerity policy promoted by Ms Merkel's party at both local and national level, and a boost for the opposition. It will encourage the SPD and Greens to campaign all out for a "red-green" coalition at national level when Ms Merkel stands for re-election in autumn 2013.

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