Published: Wed, October 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Merkel's Bavarian allies lose absolute majority

Merkel's Bavarian allies lose absolute majority

Despite garnering the most votes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ally, the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union (CSU) suffered great loss in the state election on Sunday.

The ruling Christian Social Union, which has dominated Bavarian politics in the decades since World War II, took 35.5 percent of the vote on Sunday, its lowest result since 1950, according to projections by broadcaster ARD based on exit polls.

The poor election results for Angela Merkel's conservative allies are expected to lead to more government instability.

Their success was cheered by right-wing leaders including Marine Le Pen of France and Italy's Matteo Salvini, who said that "in Bavaria, change has won". Since then, both Merkel and her CSU allies have been criticised for their management of the influx. The party more than doubled its share of the vote from the last regional elections, back in 2013.

For the chancellor, who has been in power for 13 years, the Bavarian election creates a new challenge several months after she managed to forge a fragile "grand coalition" with the CSU and the reluctant SPD.

The poll result Sunday showed that Seehofer's brinkmanship in Berlin backfired as voters anxious about immigration defected to the AfD, while those turned off by the harsh new tone drifted to the Greens.

"I will not conduct any personal discussions about me today", he said.

The punishing results for the CSU and SPD were widely seen as a rejection of months of ugly infighting, mostly about immigration, between the parties in Merkel's uneasy left-right "grand coalition".

But rather than shifting their allegiance mostly to the anti-immigrant far right, they gave the biggest boost to a rising liberal force: the pro-refugee Greens.

German Christian Social Union's candidate and Bavarian governor Markus Soeder (R, Front) delivers a speech after the initial forecast at the Maximilianeum in Munich, Germany, on October 14, 2018.

Voters delivered Merkel's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), its worst showing since 1954 in the prosperous southern state where it is used to commanding majorities.

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"It would seem we were unable to convince the electorate, and that is bitter".

The AfD's Alice Weidel, meanwhile, jubilantly declared that Merkel's government "is not a grand coalition but a mini-coalition" and demanded she "clear the way for new elections".

The party's strategy of promoting a positive, modern and inclusive narrative appears to be working: A recent survey asking voters across Germany which party they would choose in the next election found that the Greens are now the country's second party, only 9 points behind Merkel's conservatives.

He criticized the CSU's infighting over issues like migration, adding, "If the style of government doesn't change, there will be a debate in the SPD and the critical voices will get stronger".

"It is becoming increasingly clear to all parties involved that the current setup is not working in their favor". To ward off a mutiny in her coalition, she may be pressured to shake up her cabinet before the congress.

"Of course today is not an easy day for the CSU". We have not achieved a good result. "This is a painful result", Markus Soder, the party's regional leader, said.

"We will accept it with humility". We have to analyze it.

If that happens, Merkel, 64, could try to revive efforts aborted a year ago to form a government with the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, or Germany could head toward a new early election.

Mr Seehofer said he had not ruled out resigning but would not form an alliance with the AfD.

Potential partners include the Free Voters, a local centre-right party that was seen winning 11.5 per cent, and the Free Democrats, who may or may not secure the 5 per cent needed to win parliamentary seats.

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