Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have suffered in two key regional votes seen as an indication of what might happen in September’s general election.
The CDU is on course for about a quarter of the vote in Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate which were once conservative strongholds.
Merkel is due to step down as German chancellor in September, after 16 years in office.
The slump in the CDU vote comes amid anger in Germany at the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and a mask procurement scandal.
Several conservative lawmakers have quit over allegations they received huge commissions for arranging government deals to procure face masks.
In Baden-Wurttemberg the Green Party is predicted to hang on to power, while in neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are projected to retain power.
The CDU had led in opinion polls but is predicted to get only 25.5% of the vote in the final tally. The party secretary-general said it was “not a good election evening for the CDU”.
Both results pave the way for regional alliances and raise the prospect of a similar coalition forming a federal government after the September national poll.
The SPD’s candidate for chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said it showed a government without the CDU or its sister party the CSU could be possible. “A lot is possible,” he said.
Green Party chairman Robert Habeck said the party would “take this success as a tailwind for the Bundestag election campaign”.
The results are even worse than expected and are being blamed on how the CDU is managing the pandemic, says the BBC.
Merkel herself is still popular. But with just six months to go before her final term ends, these results don’t bode well for the chances of her party in the general election.