Merkel and Allies Hammered in German Regional Election

AFP/Stefanie Loos

Exit polls for regional elections in Hesse, Germany, suggest Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her Social Democratic Party (SPD) partners have been hammered at the ballot box.

Chancellor Merkel’s party is projected to be down around 10 percent, as are the left-liberal SPD — traditionally the rivals of the supposedly ‘centre-right’ CDU but currently working with them in a so-called ‘grand coalition’ after both parties haemorrhaged support in the first federal election since the onset of the migrant crisis in 2015.

The anti-mass migration, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) are thought to have broken through with around 12 percent of the vote, roughly in line with their results in other recent German elections — but the main winners appear to be the far-left Greens, who have thought to have almost doubled their support to just shy of 20 percent

The CDU and the Greens are already in a coalition in Hesse — the first partnership between the two parties to last a full term — and this may continue after today’s results, although the Greens would wield considerably more power over their establishment partners, and they would be short of a majority.

A left coalition between the Greens, the SPD, and Die Linke (The Left) would be equally strong — although possibly more unwieldy — as would a CDU/SPD coalition, which would mirror the arrangements at the federal level — although it could prove unpopular with voters, having the appearance of a so-called ‘losers’ coalition’.

The most likely configuration for an outright majority would bring the libertarian-leaning Free Democratic Party (FDP) — which often plays kingmaker after German elections and appears to have modestly increased its vote share — into the existing CDU/Green coalition.

This was attempted at the federal level without success in 2017, however, and the same obstacles to a working partnership could rear their heads in Hesse.

Interestingly, support for the CDU, SPD, and the populist AfD among workers is estimated to have been almost dead even, at 23 percent, 23 percent, and 22 percent, suggesting a major shift in sentiment among Germany’s working class.

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