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Oct 15, 5:23 PM EDT

Center-left party projected to win north German state vote



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BERLIN (AP) -- The center-left Social Democrats were projected to win a state election Sunday in Germany's Lower Saxony, ending a losing streak in three other states and at the national level this year.

Projections by public broadcaster ARD based on initial results put the Social Democrats of Lower Saxony governor Stephan Weil ahead with 37 percent of the vote, a gain of 4.4 percentage points compared to 2013.

The current governing coalition comprising the Social Democrats and the Greens was uncertain of obtaining a parliamentary majority, though. The projections had the environmentalist Greens party receiving 8.7 percent of the vote, a decline of 5 percentage points from four years ago.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, projected to receive 33.6 percent of the vote, failed to make gains. Analysts attributed the result - one of the worst for the party in Lower Saxony for decades to its top candidate's low profile and conservative voters' weariness with Merkel.

The ARD forecasts showed the free market FDP party with 7.5 percent of the vote and the nationalist Alternative for Germany with 6.2 percent. The nationalists have been plagued by infighting in recent months.

Final results weren't expected until later Sunday night or even Monday, due to the state's arcane election rules.

The campaign in Lower Saxony - one of Germany's biggest states and home to auto giant Volkswagen- has held up coalition talks at the national level.

Merkel's center-right party came out top in last month's federal election and plans to start holding talks Wednesday with the FDP and Greens about forming a coalition in Berlin. Known as a 'Jamaica coalition' because the parties' colors match those of the Caribbean nation's flag, such a government hasn't been tried before at the national level.

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