For the first time ever in Germany, and only the second time in all of Europe, a Green party is in charge of a state government. Capitalizing on a mix of nuclear aversion and local furor over a highly unpopular railway project in Stüttgart, the Greens doubled their representation to 24.2 percent in Baden Württemberg, stealing power from Merkel's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The Greens also tripled their representation in North Rhine Westphalia.
The election is among the first evidence of how Japan's nuclear crisis, sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, is causing political ripples worldwide. The election may foretell the rise of anti-nuclear parties in other nations, and serve as political warning to other leaders.
"The debate in connection with the Japanese nuclear plant of Fukushima was clearly what led to our defeat," Merkel said a day after the election. "My view of atomic energy has changed since the events in Japan."
Even Merkel's coalition partner, hitherto Germany's most pro-nuclear party, signaled a change of heart. "That was a vote over the future of atomic energy," said Mr. Westerwelle, who stepped down Sunday as FDP leader although he will remain foreign minister for now.