Merkel’s Party Defeated in 2 State Elections

MICHAEL KAPPELER  POOL  AFP via Getty Images

Germans are anxious about a possible third wave of coronavirus infections while the vaccine rollout has been slow.

The CDU leaders fear the same constellation of parties could gain enough support to leave their party in opposition at national level at September's federal vote.

Some analysts fear the loss in state elections could trigger chain reactions to the September federal election.

The poll comes six months ahead of national elections that will determine who succeeds the longtime chancellor.

In the days leading up to the regional votes, Merkel's CDU and its CSU Bavarian sister party were also rocked by revelations of lawmakers apparently profiting from deals to procure face masks in the early days of the pandemic.

Merkel's Christian Democratic Union already faced a challenging task against well-liked governors.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost out to the Greens in the southwest automotive hub of Baden-Wuerttemberg and to the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) in neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate.

The centre-right CDU endured its worst-ever results in the south-western states.

The Green party meanwhile held on to first place, garnering more than 31 percent of votes, its best result in any regional election yet.

In Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany's only green party governor, Winfried Kretschmann, has become popular with centrist voters after ten years running a region that is home to automakers like Daimler and Porsche.

The region was dominated by the CDU until Kretschmann won power shortly after Japan's 2011 Fukushima reactor disaster, which accelerated the end of nuclear power in Germany.

Voters used the state elections to vent their annoyance. The next strongest party, the Greens, was stuck at 19 per cent.

The Green party has been making strong gains in recent elections and now polls third nationally ahead of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), which is the junior partner in the federal coalition. The Greens are a junior partner in her governing coalition, which also includes the pro-business Free Democrats, and looked to have improved somewhat on their showing five years ago.

"This is a dark hour for the CDU", said Die Welt daily. There was no mood for changing parties, in so far it was a confirmation of the incumbent state prime minister but I have to add that this wasn't the first time it happened.

The Union bloc of CDU and CSU benefited from Merkel's perceived good management of the pandemic over the past year. Germany's vaccination campaign has been significantly slower than those of Israel, Britain and the U.S.

CSU leader Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria and one of two serious contenders to be the center-right candidate to replace Merkel, described the results as a "wake-up call".

Soeder's political standing has risen during the pandemic.

Karl Lauterbach, health expert for the Social Democrats, told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper that there can only be 'more relaxation [of the rules] if there are stable of falling case numbers'.

Mrs Merkel, who has spent so much of her final two years in fighting to secure the CDU leadership for her ideological heirs, could now find the next chancellor isn't even from her party.

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