Merkel’s CDU suffers worst election result since 1949

TEHRAN, Mar. 15 (MNA) – Preliminary results from the German state elections show that the Christian Democrats, led by Angela Merkel, have had their worst results since World War II.

The odds on the Greens providing Germany’s next chancellor instead of Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc just improved, Bloomberg reported.

With Merkel due to step aside after September’s general election, her Christian Democratic Union slumped to its worst results ever in two regional ballots on Sunday, as voters vented their frustration over the government’s handling of the pandemic and the slow pace of vaccinations.

The Greens were the big winners of the night, cementing their decade-long hold on power in Baden-Wuerttemberg with a third straight victory in the western state. They also performed solidly in neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate, where they govern with the Social Democrats -- who remained the strongest party -- and the liberal Free Democrats.

The two elections, held under strict hygiene and distancing rules, gave voters a first opportunity to express their discontent at the ballot box over missteps in Merkel’s pandemic strategy. And the results suggest that the CDU’s new leader, Armin Laschet, has a major problem: although they’re still the strongest force nationally, support for Merkel’s bloc is dwindling and the Greens have the wind at their backs.

An alliance between the conservatives and the Greens remains the most likely outcome of September’s vote. But Sunday’s results raise the prospect of an alternative outcome: The environmentalist party -- which has only governed at the federal level once before --- could instead lead a coalition that includes the SPD, the FDP, or even the far-left Die Linke party.

“This success will be a tailwind for the federal elections,” Greens Co-Leader Robert Habeck said Sunday. The results show that the party, which is polling at around 20% on a national basis compared with Merkel’s CDU/CSU on just over 30%, will have “various options” available after the Sept. 26 national vote, he added.

“Public trust in politics has eroded,” Habeck said. “The reason for this is the government’s mismanagement of the pandemic and, above all, the corruption scandals” involving parliamentarians from Merkel’s bloc.

German voters initially responded positively to the ruling coalition’s management of the coronavirus outbreak. But the stuttering pace of the vaccine rollout, irritation with lockdown restrictions in place since late last year, and a widening scandal over claims that some conservative lawmakers profited from the pandemic have all taken a toll.

Laschet -- who will hold a news conference Monday in Berlin to address the election results -- wants to run to replace Merkel after September but is hampered by his relative unpopularity.

His main rival for the conservative nomination, Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder who heads the smaller, CSU party based in the southern state, is one of the country’s most popular politicians. While the CDU is the dominant partner and typically provides the bloc’s candidate, Soeder’s bid could be bolstered by the CDU’s poor election results.

Laschet is still likely to secure the nomination on balance, according to Berenberg Chief Economist Holger Schmieding.

“Laschet’s position has been weakened, but it has not been critically weakened,” Schmieding said Sunday by telephone. “The losses for the CDU are not unexpected and Laschet is probably not to be blamed for the result,” he added.

Ulrich Sarcinelli, a political scientist at the University of Koblenz-Landau, disagreed, saying Laschet’s position may be under threat even though he was only elected leader in January.

“This is a dramatically bad result,” Sarcinelli said. “It will reignite the leadership debate in the CDU.”

Despite its challenges, the conservative bloc still has a clear lead in national polls and the next chancellor will likely come from within its ranks. A decision on who will lead the ticket is expected after Easter.

RHM/PR
 

News Code 171103

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