Bavaria’s con­trol­ling party, a Merkel ally, loses ground

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Geir Moul­son

BER­LIN — German Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive al­lies lost their ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in Bavaria’s state Par­lia­ment by a wide mar­gin Sun­day, ac­cord­ing to pro­jec­tions from a re­gional elec­tion that could cause more tur­bu­lence in the na­tional gov­ern­ment.

The Chris­tian So­cial Union was on course to take just over 35 per­cent of the vote, down from 47.7 per­cent five years ago, pro­jec­tions for ARD and ZDF pub­lic tele­vi­sion based on exit polls and a par­tial vote count in­di­cated.

That would be the so­cially con­ser­va­tive party’s worst per­for­mance in Bavaria, which it has tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated, since 1950. Squab­bling in Merkel’s na­tional gov­ern­ment and a power strug­gle at home have weighed in re­cent months on the CSU, which has taken a hard line on mi­gra­tion tra­di­tion.

There were gains for par­ties to its left and right. The Greens were ex­pected to win up to 19 per­cent to se­cure sec­ond place, more than dou­ble their sup­port in 2013. And the far-right Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many, or AfD, was set to en­ter the state leg­is­la­ture with around 11 per­cent of the vote.

The cen­ter-left So­cial Democrats, Merkel’s other coali­tion part­ner in Ber­lin, were on course for a disas­trous re­sult of 10 per­cent or less, half of what the party re­ceived in 2013 and its worst in the state since World War II.

The CSU has held an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in the Bavar­ian Par­lia­ment for all but five of the past 56 years and gov­erned the pros­per­ous south­east­ern state for 61 years.

Need­ing coali­tion part­ners to gov­ern would in it­self be a ma­jor set­back for the party, which only ex­ists in Bavaria and has long lever­aged its strength there to punch above its weight in na­tional pol­i­tics.

“Of course this isn’t an easy day for the CSU,” the state’s gov­er­nor, Markus Soeder, told sup­port­ers in Mu­nich, adding that the party ac­cepted the “painful” re­sult “with hu­mil­ity.”

Soeder poi n ted to go­ings-on in Ber­lin and said “it’s not so easy to un­cou­ple your­self from the na­tional trend com­pletely.”

But he stressed that the CSU still emerged Sun­day as the state’s strong­est party and a man­date to form the next Bavar­ian gov­ern­ment.

He said his pref­er­ence was for a cen­ter-right coali­tion — which would see the CSU part­ner with the Free Vot­ers, a lo­cal cen­ter-right party that was seen win­ning 11.5 per­cent, and pos­si­bly also the Free Democrats.

The Greens, tra­di­tion­ally bit­ter op­po­nents with a more lib­eral ap­proach to mi­gra­tion and an em­pha­sis on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, are an­other pos­si­bil­ity.

Bavaria is home to some 13 mil­lion of Ger­many’s 82 mil­lion peo­ple.

In Ber­lin, the CSU is one of three par­ties in Merkel’s fed­eral coali­tion gov­ern­ment along with its con­ser­va­tive sis­ter, Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­cratic Union, and the So­cial Democrats.

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