Published: Mon, October 29, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

High stakes for Merkel's govt as German state of Hesse votes

High stakes for Merkel's govt as German state of Hesse votes

Mekrel reportedly told CDU party leaders that she will step aside from the leadership election bid after the center-right party and the center-left SPD both took a hit in ballots in Hesse state at the weekend.

The decision to stand down from the CDU chairmanship signifies Merkel-who has been chancellor since 2005-is aware her time at the top of German politics is nearing its end.

That was good enough for first place, but down 11 per cent since the state last voted, in 2013, and represents the party's worst performance in the state in more than half a century.

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28% support and the centre-left Social Democrats about 20%.

As the country's two traditionally dominant centrist parties flailed in Hesse, forces on either flank surged: The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the progressive Greens.

Germany's Angela Merkel says she will step down as chancellor in 2021, following recent election setbacks.

The Social Democrats' leader, Andrea Nahles, demanded Sunday a "clear, binding timetable" for implementing government projects before the coalition faces an already-agreed midterm review next fall.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is battling with her coalition partners over immigration.

Mrs Merkel's conservative CDU party now rules along with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP).

On October 14, the Christian Social Union, or CSU - the Bavarian sister party to the CDU - lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament. Such an outcome would increase pressure from the SPD's rank-and-file for the party to pull out of the coalition with Merkel in Berlin.

The CDU has governed Hesse for almost 20 years, and the party campaigned on an enviable record in the state of ultra-low unemployment, high wages and minimal crime.

Hesse's conservative governor, Volker Bouffier, told supporters that "the message this evening to the parties in the government in Berlin is clear: people want less argument, more objectivity, more solutions".

According to projections updated around 8pm, Ms. Merkel's CDU remained the strongest party in Hesse.

The SPD's results showed the same dynamics, as the party attracted 10 percent fewer voters than in 2013.

It is still unclear what this means for Merkel's leadership.

"We are witnessing a continuation of the pattern in place ever since Merkel's mistakes in the 2015 migration crisis: the gradual but steady erosion of her political power", said Carsten Nickel, managing director at Teneo, a consultancy.

Monday's news came as a surprise to CDU party officials, who had expected Merkel to seek re-election as chairwoman at a party congress in Hamburg in early December.

The other big victor was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the Hesse regional assembly for the first time with 12 percent of the vote, the ARD exit poll showed.

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