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State defeat a blow to Germany's Merkel in re-election race, but opposition chances unclear

A defeat for Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition in a high-profile state election is a blow to the German leader as she seeks a third term later this year — but it's far from clear whether the opposition will be strong enough to oust the popular conservative.

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens narrowly ejected Merkel's center-right alliance from the government of Lower Saxony state in an election Sunday, winning a single-seat majority in its legislature.

National parliamentary elections are due in September. Sunday's vote saw a state governor from Merkel's Christian Democrats lose his job despite his personal popularity — and surveys show Merkel herself is considerably more popular than her coalition with the pro-market Free Democrats.

Opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel said Monday the outcome of September's election is "open."

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