Published: Tue, October 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Merkel's Bavarian bedfellows suffer historic election setback

Merkel's Bavarian bedfellows suffer historic election setback

Christian Social Union, Germann chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies, suffered historic losses in Bavaria state elections on Sunday, dealing a blow to a fragile three-party coalition government with her Christian Democratic Union party.

The Bavaria poll result shattered old certainties for the CSU, which has ruled nearly single-handedly since the 1960s in the state known for its fairytale castles, Oktoberfest and crucifixes on classroom walls.

But that changed Sunday.

The pro-immigration and environment Greens party came in second on the ballot, taking 17.5% of the vote, while the anti-immigration far-right Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party took 10.2% of the vote, giving it seats in the Bavarian parliament for the first time. "Since Hallstein, we have not had a Commission president", she said, referring to Walter Hallstein, the CDU politician who became head of the European Economic Community, the forerunner to the EU, in 1958.

"The impact of the Bavarian state election is huge", said Weidel.

With the party now polling below 20 percent nationally, the looming setbacks in Bavaria and Hesse are unlikely to improve the mood. Of the approximately 9.5 million eligible voters, 72.4% cast their votes, compared to 63.6% in 2013.

A series of dramatic polls have signalled that the CSU's hardline rhetoric and brinkmanship have backfired badly, as its ratings have plummeted into the low 30 percent range. "I think it is the right decision", Seehofer said.

The socially conservative party is an important but often-awkward sister to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's arch-conservative Bavarian allies are bracing for heavy electoral losses in the southern Alpine state Sunday that could trigger shockwaves in Berlin.

"We have not been able to free ourselves from the directional dispute in the CDU/CSU".

"Those who have voted for AfD in Bavaria today also say Merkel must go, dear ladies and gentlemen", she said.

The Greens have new, dynamic and relatively young leaders, a pragmatic approach that has made them a partner to parties from the center-right to the hard left in nine of Germany's 16 state governments, and clear stances on central issues.

Policy analyst Leopold Traugott from Open Europe told CNN that calls for a leadership change will grow louder from all three coalition parties: the CDU, CSU and SPD.

"It is becoming increasingly clear to all parties involved that the current setup is not working in their favor".

The battles this summer, one centred on securing German borders against asylum seekers, have distracted Merkel's fourth-term government which took half a year to cobble together after inconclusive September 2017 elections. To ward off a mutiny in her coalition, she may be pressured to shake up her cabinet before the congress.

CSU lawmaker Robert Brannekaemper told CNN he was still optimistic the party would retain enough votes to come out ahead, even if it loses support to what he described as a "counter-trend of populism". "Considering this, we hope to get 40%, as a top result". "We have achieved a painful result", he said.

But he stressed that the CSU still emerged as the state's strongest party with a mandate to form the next Bavarian government.

The CSU will now need to form a coalition which to some is seen as a humiliation for a party used to ruling alone.

A regional conservative party, the Free Voters, will likely become the CSU's coalition partner in Bavaria. "But there is also a counter-trend in Europe".

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