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Merkel's struggling partner tries to rally voters

Monday - 9/16/2013, 3:11pm  ET

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer celebrates after the Bavaria state election_the last test before the general elections on Sept. 22_ in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies triumphed in Bavaria's state election Sunday. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners sought Monday to rally their voters after suffering a serious state-level defeat over the weekend with national elections now only days away.

The pro-business Free Democrats, or FDP, lost their seats in the state legislature in Bavaria on Sunday, falling below the 5 percent mark needed to enter state parliament.

They had been in Bavarian government with the Merkel-allied Christian Social Union, and the outcome highlighted uncertainty over Merkel's chances of continuing her current center-right coalition government at the national level.

The latest nationwide polls show the FDP at 5 or 6 percent and Merkel's Christian Democratic Union at 40 or 41 percent heading in to the Sept. 22 election -- enough to form a government together and govern for four more years.

But if the Free Democrats fall below the 5 percent hurdle to get into federal Parliament, it could either force Merkel to choose another coalition partner or give other parties the opportunity to combine forces to form a government themselves.

"This is a wakeup call for all (party supporters) in Germany," said party general secretary Patrick Doering.

Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler, the Free Democrats' leader, warned voters on n-tv television Monday that if the party doesn't make it into the federal Parliament, Germany's center-left could team up with a hard-left rival to take power. "Nobody wants that," he said.

Roesler sought to downplay the weekend defeat, however, saying "the situation nationally is totally different from Bavaria."

But Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the Social Democrats, said the Bavarian result bodes well for his party's hope of having its candidate, Peer Steinbrueck, become chancellor in a coalition with the Greens. The Social Democrats were at 26 percent in the latest national polls.

"If the FDP were not to make it into Parliament, the chances would increase dramatically for Peer Steinbrueck to become chancellor," he said.

With just days before the national ballot the FDP's top candidate, Rainer Bruederle, suggested that any Christian Democrat supporters who want the current coalition to survive should vote tactically to ensure his party makes it into Parliament.

"Whoever wants Merkel, votes for the FDP," Bruederle said.

Merkel herself thought little of the idea.

"We don't have any votes to give away," the dpa news agency quoted her as saying at an election rally in the state of Lower-Saxony.


Frank Jordans contributed to this report.

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