IN two state elections covering 40 percent of the West German population, Chancellor Helmut Kohl's center-right Christian Democratic Union was the loser on Sunday. Because such a large group of voters was involved, the elections in the northern states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony were viewed as a preview of how the conservative chancellor might do in national elections scheduled for Dec. 2.
The double victory for the left-leaning Social Democratic Party cast a shadow on Mr. Kohl's chances in December. And it could have a more immediate effect on his governing ability. The narrow win in Lower Saxony for the Social Democrats is enough to give them the majority in the Bundesrat in Bonn.
The Bundesrat, which is a collection of the governors and appointed representatives from the 11 German states, has veto power over some of the legislation coming out of the Bundestag, or parliament. It is a key player when it comes to finance and budget issues. Kohl will get his first test of the new balance of power when he talks to state governors Wednesday about sharing the financial burden of German reunification.
This was an issue in the state races. There were several reasons for the narrow loss in Lower Saxony, said a disappointed Kohl in a television interview. ``One is the uncertainty: What will German unity cost?''
Kohl's party hadn't expected to win in North-Rhine Westphalia, where the Social Democrats won the absolute majority for the third straight time. But the loss in Lower Saxony was hard for the Kohl forces. Before the election, the Christian Democrats, with the help of a coalition partner, had managed to hang on to state control by one seat. Now the Social Democrats are expected to build a coalition with the help of the Greens.