Dresden vote victory strengthens Merkel

Germany's Christian Democrats (CDU) have won the last seat after a delayed vote in Dresden. The result in the eastern city of Dresden means the CDU increases its narrow lead over the Social Democrats (SPD) by one seat.

Both CDU leader Angela Merkel and current Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder hoped for a win to boost their chances of leading a governing coalition. The Dresden vote was postponed when a candidate died during the campaign.

Neither the CDU or SPD secured a working majority in last month's poll. They are edging towards a grand coalition, but each camp is claiming the chancellorship. The CDU and its CSU sister party now have 226 seats in the new parliament, while the SPD has 222.

The BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin says the result will have little impact on the coalition talks beyond giving the conservatives a slight psychological boost, reports BBC.

According to Financial Times, Ms Merkel's CDU has yet to start formal coalition talks with the chancellor's Social Democrats (SPD) because both claimed victory and the right to lead the government.

Mr Schrцder's refusal to concede defeat despite the fact that his party obtained fewer seats than the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, marked a break with postwar parliamentary tradition.

Leaders of the CDU, which has made the beginning of coalition talks conditional on the SPD's acceptance of Ms Merkel as chancellor, hope the fact that the Dresden vote did not reduce its lead could persuade Mr Schrцder to finally accept defeat.

With two thirds of the ballots counted, Andreas Lдmmel, the local CDU candidate, had won the Dresden seat in the first-past-the-post race with just above 37.15 per cent of the votes against 32.17 per cent for Marlies Volkmer, his SPD rival. Under Germany's complex electoral system, which gives each voter two votes, the result could mean the CDU either maintains its three-seat lead over the SPD, or raises it by one seat.

Ms Merkel and Mr Schrцder have so far confined their contacts to two informal meetings aimed at preparing the ground for formal coalition negotiations. The two rivals and their top aides will meet again on Wednesday in the Parliamentary Society, the German legislators' private club in Berlin, for a third round of exploratory talks.

Despite their dispute over who should lead a "grand coalition", SPD and CDU have already agreed on a strict fiscal savings programme, according to the Welt am Sonntag weekly.

Photo: getty images P.T.

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