Merkel's party wins deals to govern 2 German states

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Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party reached agreements Tuesday to form new coalition governments in two German states, party leaders said, a little over three months before a national election.

Merkel's Christian Democrats beat their center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, in a pair of state elections last month that were the final tests before the Sept. 24 national vote in which Merkel is seeking a fourth term.

In the country's northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, the conservatives are heading into government with the pro-business Free Democrats and the traditionally left-leaning Greens — a combination known as a "Jamaica" coalition because the parties' colors match those of that country's flag. It has been tried only once before at state level, and never in a national government.

Regional conservative leader Daniel Guenther said Tuesday that "we have agreed on all points," news agency dpa reported. Only the Greens were also in the state's outgoing government, which was led by the Social Democrats.

In Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Free Democrats last month won an unexpected one-seat majority to govern together. The two parties' regional leaders told dpa Tuesday that they had concluded a coalition deal to govern the state, traditionally a center-left stronghold.

Polls currently give Merkel's conservatives a double-digit national lead ahead of the September election, with challenger Martin Schulz's Social Democrats sagging following a surge earlier this year. Both parties hope to escape the "grand coalition" in which they now govern Germany together.

A center-right coalition such as the one in North Rhine-Westphalia or a "Jamaica" alliance like the one emerging in Schleswig-Holstein could be options for Merkel.

The Christian Democrats and Free Democrats governed Germany together from 2009 to 2013, when voters ejected the latter from the national parliament. They appear well-placed to return this time.