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The worst result of German Social Democrats in 44 years

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats have slumped to their worst result in 44 years in the western state of Saarland as voters punish the party for its painful economic reforms. The far-right National Democratic Party, which the government has likened to Adolf Hitler's Nazi party and has tried to outlaw, was the strongest gainer on Sunday, coming from nowhere to four percent, preliminary official results showed. That was not enough to win seats in the state assembly, but it pointed to even stronger gains for the far right in the poorer eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony in September 19 elections, as voters angered by the reforms drift to the fringe. Saarland is the first of an expected string of election defeats the SPD faces this month in response to widespread discontent over Schroeder's welfare cuts aimed at boosting growth and cutting unemployment, informs Reuters. According to Bloomberg, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democratic Party lost elections in the western state of Saarland, the first of four votes this month amid nationwide protests against government welfare cuts. Today's result reflects nationwide voter surveys showing a slump in support for Schroeder's party, known as the SPD in German, two years into the chancellor's second four-year term, after it cut unemployment payments, asked the long-term jobless to accept low-paid jobs and curbed health-care benefits to boost employment and spur growth in Europe's largest economy. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's party was routed in elections Sunday in the small western state of Saarland, where public anger over his cuts in social programs also boosted a small far-right party that benefited from the national mood of protest. Support for Schroeder's Social Democrats plunged to 30.8 percent, a loss of nearly 14 percentage points from the last election in 1999 and the lowest in the state since 1960. The conservative Christian Democrats gained slightly and retained a majority in the state legislature, allowing them to govern for five more years, complete official results showed. Though Schroeder avoided campaigning in Saarland, it was just the latest in a series of state election defeats for the Social Democrats since he won re-election two years ago. In elections to the European Parliament in June, the Social Democrats had their worst showing in a national ballot since World War II. The angry public mood, which has culminated in weekly national protests, has raised concerns among economists and business leaders that Schroeder may backtrack on the social cuts, despite his insistence that he won't. One of his aides said Sunday there would be no changes, reports ABCNEWS.

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