Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU and her SPD coalition partners bleed support in the regional vote and poor results by SPD in Hesse will almost certainly reignite a debate in the party about whether it should pull out of the coalition.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition allies in Berlin both haemorrhaged support in a regional election in the western state of Hesse on Sunday, dealing a fresh blow to the fragile national government.
Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) came home first but polled just 28 percent of the vote, an exit poll for broadcaster ARD showed. That marked a big drop from the 38.3 percent the CDU won at the last Hesse election, in 2013.
The SPD won 20 percent, down from 30.7 percent in 2013, and pushed the ecologist Greens, on 19.5 percent, into third place. The result suggests the CDU and Greens could continue their ruling coalition in Hesse but is likely to increase tensions in Merkel’s ruling ‘grand coalition’ in Berlin.
Merkel’s fourth and probably final government has already come close to collapsing twice, and the weak SPD performance in Hesse will almost certainly reignite a debate in the party about whether it should pull out of the coalition.
TRT World's Ira Spitzer reports from Berlin.
SPD feels tarnished by alliance
A growing swell of SPD members feel their party is tarnished by its alliance with Merkel and would be best to rebuild in opposition - a scenario SPD leader Andreas Nahles has resisted.
"It is not advisable for the SPD to act hastily or recklessly," Nahles said ahead of the vote.
Merkel's preferred successor as leader of her conservatives, CDU Secretary General Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has warned the SPD that pulling out of the ruling coalition after the Hesse vote would trigger a federal election.
Polls paint bleak picture for SPD
Polls show the SPD would suffer heavily in a national vote.
In Hesse, support for the CDU is running at 28 percent, a survey by pollster Forschungsgruppe Wahlen for broadcaster ZDF showed on Thursday.
But the CDU and ecologist Greens may lack sufficient support to renew their ruling alliance in the state.
The SPD and Greens were tied on 20 percent, the poll showed, with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on 12 points, and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) and far-left Linke both on 8 points.
The Greens could figure in a number of potential coalitions in Hesse should they and the CDU lack sufficient support to remain in power.
The CDU and Greens could team up with the FDP; the Greens, SPD and FDP could, in theory, join forces — though the FDP is not keen; or the Greens and SPD could work with the far-left Linke.
The Greens' half-Yemeni leader in Hesse, Tarek Al-Wazir, is not committing to any coalition until after the vote.