(Bloomberg) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners lost badly to the left and far-right in elections in the eastern state of Thuringia on Sunday, an ARD TV exit poll shows.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats, who ruled Thuringia without interruption from 1992 until 2014, plummeted 11 percentage points from 2014 to 22.5%. At the same time, the populist right-wing AfD more than doubled its standing and looked set to narrowly surpass the CDU with 24%, the poll showed.
The incumbent Left party gained marginally to 29.5%, but lacks an absolute majority with its current coalition partners, the Social Democrats and the Greens.
The result reflects the increasingly splintered political spectrum in Germany, where traditional centrist parties have been losing steadily. In Thuringia it could result in a political stalemate and possible fresh elections down the road.
“Since 1945, we have not had such a result, where the parties of the democratic center in Germany are unable to form a government,” CDU candidate Mike Mohring told reporters in Erfurt Sunday night. “This is a really bitter result.”
It’s the latest sign of trouble for Merkel in the twilight of her career. Europe’s largest economy has slowed sharply and will expand only a projected 0.5% this year, from 2.5% two years ago. At the same time, her designated successor, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has failed to gain traction in her party, while repeatedly stumbling as she seeks to win back voters from the far-right.
On Saturday, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, failed to end months of debate over whether to leave government. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, the only candidate who unequivocally backed staying in government, placed first but had only a narrow margin over the runner-up.
Candidates of the leftist camp that favor easing Germany’s fiscal rigor and exiting the coalition got more than half of the vote, versus Scholz’s 22.7%.
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