Merkel allies punished in Bavarian state election

Governor of German Christian Social Union party CSU Markus Soeder attending a party convention

The party won 10 percentage points more in the election five years ago in Hesse, where it governs with the Greens.

If they are confirmed in the final count, it would be the party's worst performance in Bavaria, which it has dominated since 1950. Squabbling in Merkel's national government and a power struggle at home have weighed on the CSU in recent months.

In second place, were the SPD and Greens, neck-and-neck at 17 per cent each, followed by the AfD at 15 per cent.

Unlike its mainstream rivals, the party doesn't have to worry much about losing supporters to the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which entered the national parliament past year and has been the other main beneficiary as the government bogs down in infighting.

BERLIN-Senior German conservatives have backed Chancellor Angela Merkel's bid for re-election as chairwoman of the Christian Democrats (CDU) at a party congress in December, lending her much needed support as infighting weakens her authority.

"It's not easy to separate ourselves from what's going on nationally", Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said after the results were announced.

But he stressed that the CSU still emerged as the state's strongest party with a mandate to form the next Bavarian government.

According to initial forecasts, the CSU took just 35.5 percent of the vote, slumping by 12.2 percentage points from the last state election in 2013, while the environmentalist Green Party became the biggest victor by garnering 18.5 percent of votes.

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Merkel rejected this idea, saying that it would breach the constitutional rights of lawmakers to have the freedom to vote for any chancellor candidate they want. The Greens, traditionally bitter opponents, with a more liberal approach to migration and an emphasis on environmental issues, are another possibility.

The CSU has long leveraged its strength at the state level to punch above its weight in national politics.

Merkel said that good economic figures and low unemployment were not enough for citizens if they lacked trust in political actors, a day after the Christian Social Union - a member of the ruling federal government coalition and the regional Bavarian counterpart to Merkel's Christian Democratic Union - saw a drop in vote share from 47.7 to 37.2 per cent.

That government has been notable largely for internal squabbling since it took office in March.

"This is a hard situation for the CSU", Interior Minister and CSU party head Horst Seehofer said Monday, acknowledging that his party would need to find a coalition partner in Bavaria.

He's been sharply critical of her open-borders stance on migration, provoking a coalition crisis over the summer when he threatened to impose restrictions on the border with Austria against Merkel's will. Official results are being counted and slowly released, with full results expected today.

Ironically, one possible outcome of the Bavaria poll could be to force an improbable alliance between the conservatives and the Greens, which could set a precedent for future national governments. Soeder drew ridicule on social media with a "mission" to turn Bavaria into Europe's top space technology hub, while a predecessor blamed part of the party's slump on less conservative Germans moving to Bavaria from other parts of the country.

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