CDU and SPD slump in Hesse election
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her allies have lost significant support in another state election, with the opposition Greens’ share of the vote doubling.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had a lacklustre win in the western region of Hesse’s state legislature.
Merkel was defending a 19-year grip on Hesse, previously a stronghold of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), which is in the federal coalition government in Berlin.
Preliminary final results showed both of the formerly dominant parties being hit with losses of around 11 percentage points, compared with the last election in 2013. The CDU still claimed first place with 27-per-cent support.
“The situation for Merkel is grave,” said the Suddeutsche Zeitung. “Now the question is whether we’ll soon have to write ‘in liquidation’ after her coalition.”
That Hesse result would allow the incumbent state government of CDU and Greens to continue, but with a weakened majority.
The left-of-centre SPD’s poor showing in Hesse put more pressure on national leaders to get tough on Merkel.
Andrea Nahles, the SPD leader, said: “The state of the government is unacceptable.”
She said she would insist Merkel agreed to“a clear, binding timetable” for implementing projects to show “whether we are still in the right place in this government”.
Increasing numbers of SPD members are calling for the party to abandon the government immediately and revive itself in opposition. This would probably spark a general election unless Merkel was prepared to battle on, leading a minority government.
The extremist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) won 13.1 per cent of the vote and will enter the Hesse state legislature for the first time. Like in the recent Bavarian state election, the extremist vote failed to match many of the pollsters’ pre-election warnings.
Federal polling puts the SPD below the AfD, at 15 per cent, compared to the far-right party’s 16 per cent.
Hesse’s CDU governor, Volker Bouffier, said after voting had finished that “the message this evening to the parties in the government in Berlin is clear: people want less argument, more objectivity, more solutions”.
Merkel’s chief of staff, Helge Braun, said the federal government must unite and “show we are solving the problems that really move people”.
Projections gave the SPD about 19.8-per-cent support, which would be its worst result in the region since the Second World War. The party appeared tied in second place with the Greens.
Frankfurt in Hesse. The Social Democrats used to view Hesse as a stronghold. Picture credit: Wikimedia