Merkel's Bavarian allies humbled in historic election setback

Source imago  imagebroker

Source imago imagebroker

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's arch-conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) allies suffered historic losses in Bavarian state elections Sunday, delivering a harsh blow to her fragile three-party coalition government, AFP reported.

An exit poll released by Infratest dimap shows the centre-right CSU as the victor of the election with 35.5 percent of the vote, which constitutes a massive 12.2 percent loss compared to the previous Bavarian election in 2013.

The populist, anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD), who are competing in the Bavarian regional elections for the first time, are projected to have won 11 percent of the vote.

In Berlin, the CSU is one of three parties in Merkel's federal coalition government along with its sister, Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, and the centre-left Social Democrats.

The center-left Social Democrats, Merkel's other coalition partner in Berlin, were on course for a disastrous fifth-place result of 10 percent or less, half of what the party received in 2013 and its worst in the state since World War II.

The future makeup of the Bavarian government is unclear, although the Greens have signalled their willingness to enter a coalition with the CSU, which in turn is uneasy about such an alliance.

Back in Bavaria, a long-running CSU power struggle saw the 69-year-old Seehofer give up his job as state governor this year to younger rival Markus Soeder.

"It is totally undisputed that the way we have treated each other in the coalition, and also the way we argued with each other in the summer, was anything but inspiring for the state election in Bavaria", she said.

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If exit polls are correct, this would be the weakest result for Merkel's allies since 1950.

A series of dramatic polls have signaled that the CSU's hardline rhetoric and brinkmanship have backfired badly, as its ratings have plummeted into the low 30 percent range.

While the AfD has polled at or above 10 percent, the surprise stars have been the Greens, a one-time hippie and peacenik collective that has poached mainstream voters to suddenly mature into a mainstream political force.

The Bavarian election is followed in two weeks by another test for Merkel's conservative alliance: her CDU is likely to remain the largest party but lose votes in a vote in the western state of Hesse, home to the financial centre of Frankfurt.

The CSU has also attacked Merkel's long liberal refugee with a ferocity that has grown as the Bavaria election neared, in an increasingly desperate attempt to recapture voters drifting to the AfD.

The CDU then holds its annual congress in December, when Merkel will seek re-election as party chairwoman - a bid senior conservatives have backed despite the parliamentary party ousting her ally, Volker Kauder, as leader last month.

For Merkel, now often labeled a lame duck leader in her fourth and final term, it would further raise political pressure two weeks ahead of another risky regional vote, in the central state of Hesse.

Her fourth and probably final government has already come close to collapsing twice, in arguments over immigration and a scandal over a former spymaster.

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