Germany’s most populous state will hold early elections after its minority government narrowly failed to get a budget passed Wednesday — a prospect that could boost the country’s center-left opposition. All 181 members of the state legislature in North Rhine-Westphalia voted to dissolve it. That means a new regional election must be held within 60 days, although no date was immediately set. North Rhine-Westphalia, a western region of some 18 million people that includes Cologne and the Ruhr industrial region, is governed by the center-left Social Democrats and Greens. The vote Wednesday came hours after a budget proposal from the state government fell one vote short of a majority. Center-right opponents have accused it of poor financial management and demanded more belt-tightening.
Polls suggest Social Democratic Governor Hannelore Kraft and her coalition could benefit from the new election, which comes three years ahead of schedule. Those parties are in opposition nationally to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government, but state governments wield influence in highly federalized Germany — not the least via the upper house of parliament, where they are represented.
Kraft’s center-left alliance took power in 2010, replacing a coalition of Merkel’s conservatives and the pro-market Free Democrats — the parties that form the national government. Both voted against the new budget Wednesday because they wanted to reduce the state’s borrowing.