Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Germany’s governing parties punished in state election

Green politicians Tarek Al-Wazir Priska Hinz and Annalena Baerbock at an election rally in Frankfurt last week. The party is enjoying a surge in popularity in Germany German governing parties punished in state election
Jodi Jackson | 01 November, 2018, 14:25

The other big victor was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the Hesse regional assembly for the first time with 12.8 percent of the vote, the ZDF projection showed.

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

Chancellor Angela Merkel's once-unassailable position in German politics endured yet another blow as support for her party dropped precipitously in a state that has always been a bellwether for the nation, projected results showed.

Merkel, 64, has led the CDU since 2000 and Germany since 2005.

If the party does relinquish control of the state government, that would be seen as a major blow to Merkel ahead of the CDU's annual conference, in December, when she will be seeking reelection as party chairwoman.

The result means the anti-immigration party, which entered the federal parliament for the first time past year, is now also represented in all 16 German regional assemblies.

The debacle followed a battering in a state election in Bavaria two weeks ago for the CSU and the Social Democrats.

Carsten Brzeski, an economist at ING-DiBa in Frankfurt, said Merkel's move "holds the potential for positive developments". Much has changed since then, and as the gap between the USA and its European allies has widened during the Trump administration, Merkel's worldwide profile has grown. Merkel has walked a fine line, criticizing some of Trump's decisions while emphasizing that a good relationship with Washington is "central" to her government.

Merkel will now concentrate on smoothing over the differences in her government to keep it running until the end of the parliamentary term in 2021, which is far from guaranteed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will not stand again as leader of her centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a party source told AFP Monday, a clear sign that the German leader is preparing for her eventual succession after a series of regional vote defeats.

"We could then gauge the implementation of this roadmap at the agreed mid-term review, when we would be able to clearly see if this government is the right place for us", Nahles told reporters.

It had been widely assumed this would be Merkel's final term in office, but the comments were the chancellor's first public confirmation.

The surprise announcement that Merkel would leave her party's leadership but remain in the chancellorship did not satisfy her critics.

Merkel said the election results in Hesse were bitterly disappointing.

She swung her conservatives behind bailouts for Greece and other struggling eurozone nations, striking a balance between calls for a strict approach at home and more generosity overseas.

Merkel has dragged the CDU to the political center in her years as leader, dropping military conscription, introducing benefits encouraging fathers to look after their young children, and abruptly accelerating the shutdown of Germany's nuclear power plants following Japan's Fukushima disaster in 2011.

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