News Analysis: Germany's Hesse election feared to deal another blow to Merkel

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-28 03:41:09|Editor: Liangyu
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BERLIN, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is bracing for another hit as polls have shown a severe setback for her on Sunday's state election in Hesse.

The regional vote could push German government into a fresh crisis, since the political coalition at the federal level, joined by Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union (CSU), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), is already shaky.

In the most recent poll on Hessian voter preference made by Infratest Dimap, the CDU snagged 26 percent, a sharp decline from the 38.3 percent five years ago, and the SPD at 21 percent, also downed from 30.7 percent.

The centrist Greens is projected at 20 percent and the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is at 12 percent.

If the polls were accurate, CDU will have to draw another party to the current CDU and Green alliance state government in order to secure a majority.

The result means that the CDU's influence will be further diluted and the CDU's state premier Volker Bouffier, seen as a close ally of Merkel, will possibly be toppled.

It is not the only blow to Germany's governing parties suffered this month. About two weeks ago, the CSU lost its absolute majority in the Bavarian state election, and the SPD was reduced to single digit securing only 9.7 percent of the vote.

Although not every regional election can be stylized into a national election, some German analysts however saw the setbacks as a national trend.

The general situation is that CDU/CSU as well as SPD is gradually losing confidence among the voters and the Greens has been filling up the vacuum they left, said Prof. Dr. Xuewu Gu, director of the Center for Global Studies at University of Bonn.

Many blamed the low voter support on the CDU and CSU's in-fighting at the federal parliament Bundestag, where the CSU shifted greatly to the right, taking a hard line on migration issues, after the Merkel's open-door policy in 2015, aiming to counter the growth of anti-immigration AfD.

The attempt did not succeed and even Merkel herself had to call on her political union to "stop argument," because the voters "don't appreciate it."

The problem lied within SPD is however decade long. Since 2005, the SPD has served as junior partner to the CDU at the federal level for three times.

The left-leaning party has shared responsibility for unpopular decisions, including austerity measures and refugee policy, but failed to left its own impression on public. The political alliance with CDU has blurred the SPD's identity, and many voters thought that the SPD is no longer a policy-changing force in Germany's political map, Xuewu said.

The governing coalition parties, after the Hesse election, will probably be forced to make a shake-up in their personnel. Since the Bavarian election, there has been already an atmosphere within these parties in search for who should be responsible for these setbacks, according to public-service broadcaster ARD.

It was believed that Merkel is gradually losing grip of her political union. One example is her right-hand man Volker Kauder was ousted as head of her union's parliamentary group in an inner-party ballot.

The unexpected result is seen as a coup and also a warning to Merkel, who may not surely be reappointed as CDU party leader at the party congress set in the coming December.

As for SPD, the storm is more violent, as many leftists and youths in the party, even before the Hesse election, already urged SPD to design a roadmap to quit the coalition government and rebuild its party image.

If this were to happen, Merkel would be left with a minority government, or she could renegotiate with the Greens and Free Democrats to form a new government, otherwise there would be an earlier federal parliament election.

The political changes in Germany are usually not happening rapidly but through thorough "brewing process", and as some local media have dubbed it, after the Hesse election Merkel might say "a slow goodbye."