Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party plunged to a record low in a state election in Hamburg as voters gave their first verdict on political turmoil in Germany that has upended her succession plans. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union took 11.5 per cent of the vote on Sunday, a drop of about 4 percentage points, according to projections for ARD public television. The city-state’s governing Social Democrats were also diminished, winning the election with a projected 37.5 per cent, compared with 45.6 per cent five years ago.
The big winner was the Green party, which more than doubled its support to a projected 25.5 per cent, a surge that parallels its rise in national polls. The far-right Alternative for Germany party was at risk of dropping out of the Hamburg legislature with a slight drop in support. Merkel’s party has been hobbled after her heir-apparent, CDU national leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, announced her resignation on February 10. That followed a crisis in Germany’s political establishment after CDU lawmakers in the eastern state of Thuringia cast their lot with the AfD to install a regional premier, who quit within days amid an outcry.Bloomberg
The CDU’s worst post-World War II result in Hamburg, a city it governed as recently as 2011, sets the stage for a meeting of CDU national leaders on Monday, where Kramp-Karrenbauer will seek to steer the process for her succession as party chief. Whoever wins that post is likely to be the party’s candidate for chancellor in the next national election.
Merkel, 65, has said she won’t run again as chancellor after her fourth term ends in 2021 at the latest. Should a new party leader emerge in the coming months, a complex cohabitation with Merkel in the chancellery may prove tenuous.
Adding to the sense of chaos, tensions around extremist activity in Germany have intensified since an assailant killed 11 people, including himself, in the city of Hanau near Frankfurt on Wednesday. Authorities said the lone gunman, a 43-year-old German, was motivated by xenophobia. Merkel has vowed to eradicate racist “poison.”