19th Dec 2018

Merkel's CDU hits buffers in regional elections

  • Some centre-right politicians have blamed Angela Merkel's campaigning style for the losses (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), suffered an electoral blow on Sunday as it lost its absolute majority in two states.

Voters went to the polls in Saarland, near the French border, and in Thuringia and Saxony, in what was formerly the Communist east. All three states were governed by the CDU.

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But Sunday's results show that in Saarland, the CDU's share of the vote dropped to 34.5 percent from 47.5 percent five years ago. In Thuringia, the vote dropped to 31.2 percent from 43 percent. The slump meant that the CDU lost its majority in both states.

In Saxony, the CDU fared better and is able to form a governing coalition with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) - a political partnership Mrs Merkel is hoping to repeat a national level at the end of the month.

The results have led to nervousness in the ranks of the CDU ahead of the 27 September general elections, with some politicians blaming Mrs Merkel's campaign style for the erosion of the party's popularity.

Several German newspapers carry articles by centre-right politicians in which the chancellor is asked to show more passion, as well as to be clear that the FDP would be the coalition partner in any CDU-led government after the elections.

"Alarm bells should be ringing at CDU headquarters," Hans-Juergen Hoffmann, managing director of Berlin-based polling company Psephos, told the Bloomberg news agency.

"Merkel has stood in the shadows during these elections. She's got four weeks to seize the reins of leadership and grab voters' attention."

Although the CDU slipped in the voter rankings, the results were a strong disappointment to the Social Democrats, currently in the ruling coalition with Mrs Merkel and who failed to see much hoped-for gains at the ballot box.

They have trailed in the polls to the CDU despite a lacklustre campaign by the chancellor, but Sunday's vote showed smaller parties - the FDP and the far left - gaining at the expense of the two major parties.

Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the SPD's candidate for chancellor, put a brave face on the results.

"Whoever wrote off the SPD in the last few weeks is in for a surprise," he said.

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