BERLIN – Voters in one of the wealthiest states in Germany again punish the conservatives of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, which was seen as another barometer for their position in the German public.
The judgment in Hesse, an apparently lukewarm and certainly shrinking support of the chancellor party, corresponded to the trend in the whole of Germany in recent years.
While Merkel's Christian Democrats had distinguished themselves as the leading voices and were expected to vote there to form a new government, that was not surprising. They dominated the politics of the Hessian state for almost two decades, sometimes with large margins.
Even their coalition partner in the national government, the Social Democrats, should be about 10 points above their former Lose score and receive about 20 percent of the vote.
Repeats the result Two weeks ago in southern Bavaria, where Merkel's conservative bloc suffered a similar loss, voters in Hesse moved from the center to the fringes. On the left, the share of votes of the Greens rose to about 20 percent, from previously 8 percent. The right alternative for Germany, the AfD, had a share of 12 percent, slightly less than the 15 percent it has at national level.
With the results of Sunday, the immigration hostility of the AfD has slightly exceeded the threshold for entry into the state government for the first time represented in all 16 state parliaments.
If the projections for Hesse remain constant, the coalition of Christian Democrats and Greens, which has ruled for five years, will remain in power. However, in view of the extremely narrow race, it was not clear whether they would have enough seats.
With the arrival of the AfD and left-wing parties, six parties had legislative representation, ie the form of the next government relied on majorities of one or two seats.
In Hesse, candidates tried to focus on local issues such as education, transport and infrastructure. But voters seemed to focus on the larger picture right from the beginning, and they denied the center-right Christian Democrats and their ruling party, the center-left Social Democrats, for the power struggles they had been plagued by since they seized power in March . As Mrs. Merkel's party wakes, Sunday's election result will put pressure on her, six weeks before a party congress where she said she would run for the leader, a position she held since April 2000.
So far, no serious candidates have emerged to challenge them. But last month, one of her closest allies was defeated by a little known challenger as faction leader of the conservative bloc – another indication that Ms. Merkel's support is weakening in her own party.
The Chancellor's Conservatives expressed dismay over the outcome in Hesse, but vowed to double their focus on governing, hoping to regain confidence and restructure the party. Conservatives have seen their support at national level decline to around 27 percent, of the more than 35 percent they enjoyed when Ms. Merkel was elected to her first term in 2005.
"Where there are losses, there are consequences," said Helge Braun, Ms. Merkel's chief of staff, to the ARD, but did not elaborate.
Annegret Kamp-Karrenbauer, Secretary-General of the Conservative Party, said: "Of course, we in the Christian Democrats are not happy, we need a new working culture in the governing coalition and a renewal of the Christian Democrats."
Your coalition partners at the national level, the Social Democrats, have never felt comfortable in the government. They believe that they suffered for joining the Conservatives, and did so only after much torture. On Sunday, her chair, Andrea Nahles, blamed the coalition in Berlin for her party's losses.
"The state of the governing coalition is unacceptable," Ms Nahles told her party following the announcement of the results. She said the Social Democrats would draw up a "road map" for the coming year, until the mid-term review her party had passed as part of the agreement to join the government of Ms. Merkel.