German parties prepare for second electoral shock in Hesse
Germany German parties prepare for second electoral shock in Hesse
Dip in support for Christian Democrats and Social Democrats could spell danger for chancellorâs grand coalition
Germanyâs ruling parties are bracing for a second electoral disaster within a fortnight as polls for Sundayâs regional election in Hesse suggest that voters will punish Angela Merkelâs shaky coalition government.
Sundayâs vote could plunge Germanyâs grand coa lition into a fresh crisis, with polls showing a nosedive in support for both Merkelâs Christian Democrats (CDU) and coalition partner Social Democrats (SPD), reflecting a nationwide trend.
Both parties are trying to play down the significance of the regional election, which comes just two weeks after a catastrophic poll in Bavaria widely blamed on the failings of the Berlin government.
Home to Germanyâs financial centre, Frankfurt am Main, Hesse is a former swing state long seen as a bellwether for national politics. For the past 20 years it has been ruled by various CDU-led coalitions. But now polls have the CDU plummeting to 26%, a drop of 12 points since 2013.'Adults in the room': Greens surge across Europe as centre-left flounders Read more
The result would spell an end to the stateâs current CDU-Green coalition and possibly topple the CDU state premier and close Merkel ally, Volker Bouffier.
Such an outcome is unlikel y to trigger an immediate open revolt against Merkelâs leadership within her party, but dark mutterings from CDU MPs in the German press have implied that it may cost the chancellor vital votes when she stands for re-election as party leader at its conference in early December.
Noticeably irritated by the constant onslaught of reports hailing the end of her government, Merkel has attempted to downplay the significance of the regional vote for her party, government and chancellorship. âNot every regional election can be stylised into a little national election,â Merkel told regional broadcaster Hessische Rundfunk while accompanying Bouffier on the campaign trail this week. âThatâs wrong. Thereâs a lot at stake for the citizens in Hesse.â
Yet Merkel has more to worry about than a revolt from within her own party. A bad result on Sunday for the SPD could have even swifter consequences for the chancellor. Polls have the Social Democrats tied with the Greens o n second place on 21%, a slump of nine points since Hesse last went to the polls.
Such a loss in a former SPD heartland would be a serious blow to the party, particularly so soon after the result in Bavaria. It could be the shock that finally prompts the SPD leadership to yield to party voices urging it to withdraw from Merkelâs coalition in Berlin, forcing national elections.
âThe grand coalition is a symptom of a problem thatâs bigger than itself,â Kevin KÃ¼hnert, head of the SPDâs youth wing, told Der Spiegel in a recent interview. âBut if we have the feeling the coa lition canât be saved and that no substantive work is possible, then we have to draw a line underneath it. At some point we have to decide on that.â
As in Bavaria, Hesseâs booming economy and low unemployment figures have not prevented voters flocking to the far right. The anti-immigrant Alternative fÃ¼r Deutschland (AfD) is currently polling at third place on 13%, enough for the party to comfortably enter Hesseâs parliament for the first time.
But, as in Bavaria, Hesseâs big winners are set once again to be the Greens, who have doubled their support in the state and are polling at their highest nationwide since Japanâs Fukushima disaster in 2011. If predictions play out, the party could potentially opt to cut the CDU out of power in Hesse and install a leftwing coalition under Germanyâs second-ever Green state premier.
- Angela Merkel
- The far right
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