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Merkel’s party suffers heavy losses in state vote

October 29, 2018

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Wiesbaden (Germany): Supporters of the Green party welcome the first exit polls during the state elections.—AFP
Wiesbaden (Germany): Supporters of the Green party welcome the first exit polls during the state elections.—AFP

FRANKFURT MAIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party suffered heavy losses in Sunday’s regional election in Hesse state, according to an exit poll.

The CDU remained the largest party, but lost around 10 percentage points to score 28 per cent of the vote, public broadcaster ARD reported, while junior federal government partners the Social Democrats (SPD) shed almost 11 points to land on just 20 per cent.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives were in the lead in the vote for the central region of Hesse’s state legislature. Her centre-left governing partners were on course for a dismal result, running neck-and-neck with the Greens for second place.

Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union was defending its 19-year hold on Hesse, previously a stronghold of the centre-left Social Democrats, the chancellor’s federal coalition partners in Berlin. There has been widespread speculation that a disastrous result for either or both parties could further destabilise the national government and, ultimately, Merkel’s own position.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28 per cent support and the centre-left Social Democrats about 20 per cent. When Hesse last elected its state legislature in 2013, they won 38.3 and 30.7 per cent, respectively. That would be the worst result in the region for the Social Democrats since World War II.

There were gains for the Greens, who were roughly level with Social Democrats at nearly 20 per cent compared with 11.1 per cent five years ago. And the far-right Alternative for Germany was on course to enter the last of Germany’s 16 state parliaments with more than 12 per cent.

The pro-business Free Democrats were seen winning around 7 per cent and the Left Party 6.5 per cent.

Voters have appeared generally satisfied with conservative governor Volker Bou­ffier’s outgoing state government. It was the first coalition between the CDU and the traditionally left-leaning Gre­ens to last a full parliamentary term, and an unexpectedly harmonious alliance.

But only the Greens, who are in opposition nationally, benefited at the polls.

The projections left un­c­lear whether Bouffier’s outgoing coalition would keep its parliamentary majority and exactly what other combinations are possible. The election campaign in prosperous Hesse, which includes Germany’s financial centre of Frankfurt, has been largely overshadowed by the woes of a federal coalition that has been in office only since March. The state is home to 6.2 million of Germa­ny’s 82 million people.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2018

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