The Fukushima nuclear disaster has contributed to the conservative government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel getting hammered in two state elections on Sunday with the Greens huge winners as their share of the vote doubled.

The Japanese situation had no impact in the NSW election on Saturday (where The Greens flopped in the state lower house, but picked up a seat in the upper house), but in Germany, where nuclear power is a real issue, it was the major factor, judging the reports so far on the results.

Absent from post-election comment was any talk of unease among voters about the size of Germany’s support for the financial bailouts of Greece, Ireland, and the rest of Europe.

Instead it was the upsurge in doubt about nuclear power that has tripped up the conservatives in Germany, along with Merkel.

Computer forecasts predicted a narrow victory for a centre-left coalition of the Greens and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Baden-Württemberg, a state that has been ruled by the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) since 1953. If that happens (and it looks very likely), a Green will lead a German state for the first time.

In Rhineland-Palatinate the result looks like being in favour of the SDP with the Greens.

While the final results won’t be known until tomorrow or the day after, the voting system could still allocate additional seats according to the proportion of votes won by the parties, leaving the final outcome still in doubt. At the moment, a final make-up looks like being the Greens/SDP with 71 seats in the Barden Wurttemberg State assembly, the CDU/Free Democrats have 67.

Four seats are in doubt, according to media reports.

It’s not that Merkel lost heavily, it’s that she failed to make any ground as the Greens alone were boosted.

Barden Wurttemberg, is home to Daimler, Porsche and the the richest part of the country. A feature of the vote so far is that the Greens with 24.5% (up from 11.7% in the last poll in the state), have outpolled the centre left SDP on 23.5% (down from 25.1%).

More worrying was the performance of the CDU; while it’s still the biggest part with 39%, but that’s down sharply from 44.2% in the last state poll, while the Free Democrats saw their share halve to 5.3% from 10.7%.

By losing control in the heartland or German conservative support, Merkel is certain to face criticism from her own party for failing to present a clear conservative agenda in government. There were complicating matters, a botched rail project in the heart of Stuttgart cost the CDU votes, but the nuclear issue emerged after Fukushima and Japan’s terrible earthquake and tsunami.

Merkel tried to appease the concern about Fukushima and nuclear power by calling a three-month moratorium on the decision to extend the life of Germany’s nuclear plants by 12 years past 2022. The defeated CDU Premier of the state was a loud supporter of nuclear power.

In the second election on Sunday, the Social Democratic party seemed set to keep control in the neighbouring state of the Rhineland-Palatinate, but only by the narrowest of margins over the CDU, which actually picked up votes.

But again the Green vote doubled, meaning a so-called “red-green” coalition seems certain to rule in the state.

If the results of both polls were repeated at a national election, the Greens would win with the SPD. They had been in a coalition before from 1998 to 2005.

Peter Fray

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