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Merkel Says Election Loss Won't Affect Europe Policy

German Chancellor and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party leader Angela Merkel (file photo)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the heavy election losses her party suffered in a state election on May 13 will not affect "her work in Europe" as she grapples with the European debt crisis.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on May 14, Merkel conceded that the losses her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) suffered in the election in North Rhine-Westphalia were a "bitter, painful defeat."

But Merkel added that she was "very relaxed" about national elections due in late 2013 in which she is expected to seek a third term at the helm of Europe's top economy.

In the snap North Rhine-Westphalia election, the CDU took just over 26 percent of the vote -- the party's worst election result in the western state since World War II.

North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany's most populous state, and the poll for the regional assembly had been dubbed a mini general election.

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens consolidated their hold on the state.

Pirates Pillage Vote

A newcomer, the Pirate Party, which seeks greater Internet access and a state-guaranteed minimum income for all, won just under 8 percent of the vote, securing seats in a German state assembly for the fourth straight time since September.

Merkel has sought to distance herself from the North Rhine-Westphalia election, stressing that it was a regional event.

But some have argued that the election result could embolden opponents of the austerity measures she has been pushing in Germany, as well as on struggling eurozone states such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

Merkel is scheduled to hold her first-ever meeting in Berlin with France's Socialist President-elect Francois Hollande on May 15.

Hollande campaigned on a pledge to renegotiate a Germany-inspired EU fiscal pact that binds member states to budgetary belt-tightening.

Opinion polls in Germany suggest, however, that although they may be unhappy with a squeeze of public spending at home, a majority of Germans support Merkel's focus on debt reduction in the eurozone.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
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