Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition government has been weakened by the outcome of a key state election at a time when Europe is looking for a strong leadership from Germany to deal with the worst crisis facing their common currency since it was introduced eleven years ago.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their coalition partner Free Democratic Party (FDP) lost their majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house of German parliament, after they were voted out of power in Sunday's state election in North Rhine Westphalia.
This will make Merkel's seven month-old conservative- liberal coalition dependent on the opposition to pass important legislations in parliament and as a result they may be forced to modify or even completely scrap the government's ambitious tax reduction plans, labour market and social sector reforms and other key policy initiatives, according to election analysts.
Sunday's election in Germany's most populous state was watched with great interest at home and abroad as a test of popularity of Merkel's conservative-liberal coalition, which came into power last October after five years of "grand coalition" between the CDU and the Social Democratic Party.
The state was ruled by the same coalition as at the centre and the NRW poll was the first state election since the general election last September.
The election campaign was dominated by domestic issues, but Germany's 22.4 billion euro bailout of Greece also played a role at the end of the campaign.
The CDU suffered its worst election debacle in the state when it lost 10.5 per cent of the votes from the level of the last election in 2005 and dropped 34.6 per cent, but still remained the largest political force in the state, according to provisional official results.
The voter turn-out was below 60 per cent, much lower than in the 2005 election.
The opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) succeeded in reducing the gap with the CDU after the last election and established a parity by polling 34.5 per cent votes, even though its share of votes declined by 2.5 per cent.
The two main parties have 67 seats each in the 181- seat state legislature in Duesseldorf.
However, the SPD is short of one seat to form a coalition government with its preferred partner the ecological Green Party, which emerged as the main winner of the election.
The Green party achieved its best result in a state election in North Rhine Westphalia by securing 12.1 per cent of the votes, around 6.1 per cent more than in he 2005 election. Its strength in the state parliament rose to 23 seats.