German governing parties punished in state election

Published 10-28-2018

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BERLIN (AP) - Germany's governing parties lost significant support in a state election Sunday that was marked by discontent with infighting in Chancellor Angela Merkel's national government and prompted calls for her administration to get its act together quickly.

Projections showed Merkel's conservatives heading for an extremely lackluster win in the vote for the central Hesse region's state legislature. Her center-left governing partners were on course for a dismal result, running neck-and-neck with the Greens for second place.

Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union was defending its 19-year hold on Hesse, previously a stronghold of the center-left Social Democrats, the chancellor's coalition partners in Berlin.

There was widespread pre-election speculation that a disastrous result for either or both parties could further destabilize the national government, prompting calls for the Social Democrats to walk out and possibly endangering Merkel's own position. But government leaders appeared keen Sunday to keep the show on the road.

Andrea Nahles, the Social Democrats' leader, said that "the state of the government is unacceptable."

She said her party would insist on Merkel's governing coalition agreeing on "a clear, binding timetable" for implementing projects, and that how that is implemented ahead of an already-agreed midterm review next fall will show "whether we are still in the right place in this government."

The CDU's general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the coalition needs to identify "three concrete projects for the coming months that we implement." She didn't specify what they might be.

Hesse's conservative governor, Volker Bouffier, told supporters that "the message this evening to the parties in the government in Berlin is clear: people want less argument, more objectivity, more solutions."

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28 percent support and the center-left Social Democrats nearly 20 percent. When Hesse last elected its state legislature in 2013 - on the same day that Merkel was triumphantly elected to a third term as chancellor - they won 38.3 and 30.7 percent, respectively. That would be the worst result in the region for the Social Democrats since World War II.

There were gains for the Greens, who were roughly level with Social Democrats at nearly 20 percent - compared with 11.1 percent five years ago. And the far-right Alternative for Germany was on c

The CDU's general secretary, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the coalition needs to identify "three concrete projects for the coming months that we implement." She didn't specify what they might be.

Hesse's conservative governor, Volker Bouffier, told supporters that "the message this evening to the parties in the government in Berlin is clear: people want less argument, more objectivity, more solutions."

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28 percent support and the center-left Social Democrats nearly 20 percent. When Hesse last elected its state legislature in 2013 - on the same day that Merkel was triumphantly elected to a third term as chancellor - they won 38.3 and 30.7 percent, respectively. That would be the worst result in the region for the Social Democrats since World War II.

There were gains for the Greens, who were roughly level with Social Democrats at nearly 20 percent - compared with 11.1 percent five years ago. And the far-right Alternative for Germany was on course to enter the last of Germany's 16 state parliaments with more than 12 percent.

The pro-business Free Democrats were seen winning above 7 percent and the Left Party around 6.5 percent.

Voters have appeared generally satisfied with Bouffier's outgoing state government. It was the first coalition between the CDU and the traditionally left-leaning Greens to last a full parliamentary term, and an unexpectedly harmonious alliance.

But only the Greens, who are in opposition nationally, benefited at the polls.

The projections left uncertain whether Bouffier's outgoing coalition would keep its parliamentary majority, and exactly what other combinations might be possible.

The election campaign in prosperous Hesse, which includes Germany's financial center of Frankfurt, has been largely ov

Projections for ARD and ZDF public television, based on exit polls and partial counting, gave the CDU 27-28 percent support and the center-left Social Democrats nearly 20 percent. When Hesse last elected its state legislature in 2013 - on the same day that Merkel was triumphantly elected to a third term as chancellor - they won 38.3 and 30.7 percent, respectively. That would be the worst result in the region for the Social Democrats since World War II.

There were gains for the Greens, who were roughly level with Social Democrats at nearly 20 percent - compared with 11.1 percent five years ago. And the far-right Alternative for Germany was on course to enter the last of Germany's 16 state parliaments with more than 12 percent.

The pro-business Free Democrats were seen winning above 7 percent and the Left Party around 6.5 percent.

Voters have appeared generally satisfied with Bouffier's outgoing state government. It was the first coalition between the CDU and the traditionally left-leaning Greens to last a full parliamentary term, and an unexpectedly harmonious alliance.

But only the Greens, who are in opposition nationally, benefited at the polls.

The projections left uncertain whether Bouffier's outgoing coalition would keep its parliamentary majority, and exactly what other combinations might be possible.

The election campaign in prosperous Hesse, which includes Germany's financial center of Frankfurt, has been largely overshadowed by the woes of a federal coalition in office only since March. The state is home to 6.2 million of Germany's 82 million people.

Two weeks ago, two of the parties in Merkel's federal "grand coalition" of what have traditionally been Germany's strongest political forces - the Christian Social Union, the Bavaria-only sister to Merkel's CDU, and the Social Democrats - were battered in a state election in neighboring Bavaria.

The Social Democrats only reluctantly entered Merkel's fourth-term national government in March, and many are dismayed by what has happened since.

The government has been through two major crises, first over whether to turn back small numbers of migrants at the German-Austrian border and then over what to do with the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service after he was accused of downplaying far-right violence against migrants. It has failed to convince voters that it's achieving much on other matters.

Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political science professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen, predicted on ZDF television that its leaders "will do everything to save the 'grand coalition' for the next three years."

Being able to keep Bouffier, a deputy CDU leader, as governor will stabilize Merkel in the short term, he said. The chancellor has indicated that she will seek another two-year term as CDU leader in December.

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Hesse Prime Minister and Christian Democratic top candidate Volker Pouffier smiles at a party's election party after first results of the Hesse state election were announced in Wiesbaden, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Exit polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel's party leading with a significant drop in support for both her conservatives and their center-left partners in the national government. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) - The Associated Press


Green Party top candidates Tarek Al-Wazir, center, and Priska Hinz, left, and party co-chairwoman Annalena Baerbock, right, celebrate at a party's election party, after first results of the Hesse state election announced in Wiesbaden, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer) - The Associated Press


Andrea Nahles, federal chairwoman of the Social Democratic Party SPD, gives a statement at the SPD headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, after the election in the German state of Hesse. Germany's governing parties lost significant support in a state election Sunday marked by discontent with infighting in the national government, according to projections. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Christian Democratic party's, CDU, general secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer gives a statement in Berlin Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. after her party lost in the election in the German state of Hesse. (Carsten Koall/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Supporters of the Christian Democratic party CDU look disappointed after the election in the German state of Hesse in the CDU headquarters in Berlin, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Exit polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel's party leading with a significant drop in support for both her conservatives and their center-left partners in the national government. (Carsten Koall/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Natalia Meuthen, wife of AfD co-chairman Joerg Meuthen, and AfD state chairman Klaus Herrmann, from left, celebrate after the state election in the German state of Hesse in Wiesbaden, western Germany, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Exit polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel's party leading with a significant drop in support for both her conservatives and their center-left partners in the national government. The nationalist Alternative for Germany, AfD, were elected into the parliament for the first time. (Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Supporters of the Green party celebrate after the state election in the German state of Hesse in Wiesbaden, western Germany, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Exit polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel's party leading with a significant drop in support for both her conservatives and their center-left partners in the national government. (Uwe Anspach/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Supporters of the nationalist Alternative for Germany AfD celebrate after the state election in the German state of Hesse in Wiesbaden, western Germany, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. Exit polls show Chancellor Angela Merkel's party leading with a significant drop in support for both her conservatives and their center-left partners in the national government. (Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this June 18, 2018 file photo German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, talks with the Prime Minister of the Hesse state Volker Bouffier, right, prior to leaders meetings of her Christion Democratic Union party at the party's headquarters in Berlin. The stakes are unusually high for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as the central region of Hesse votes in a state election this weekend. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2018 file photo German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, at the Reichstag building in Berlin. The stakes are unusually high for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as the central region of Hesse votes in a state election this weekend. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, file) - The Associated Press


The March 21, 2018 photo shows Hesse governor Volker Pouffier, right, of the Christian Democratic Party CDU and Hesse Economy Minister Tarek Al-Wazir of the Green party talking in the Landtag state parliament of Hesse in Wiesbaden, western Germany. The stakes are unusually high for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as the central region of Hesse votes in a state election this weekend. (Arne Dedert/dpa via AP) - The Associated Press


Hesse Prime Minister and Christian Democratic top candidate Volker Bouffier arrives at a party's election party after first results of the Hesse state election announced in Wiesbaden, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Probst) - The Associated Press