Merkel disaster: CDU beaten into third place in humiliating regional election result

The incumbent far-left Linke topped the polls, winning 29.7 percent of the vote, the results forecast by broadcaster ARD showed. The AfD won 23.8 percent – beating the German Chancellor’s Christian Democrats (CDU) into third place (22.5 percent). They were followed by Ms Merkel’s Government coalition partner, the Social Democrats Social Democrats (SPD), on 8.5 percent, with the Greens on 5.4 percent and the Free Democrats on five percent trailing behind.

The CDU and SPD have suffered a double blow after losing votes from the last regional election in Thuringia in 2014.

But rival the AfD more than doubled their share of votes, while the Linke edged up further

The strong result from the AfD adds to further problems in the coalition Government the German Chancellor shares with the SPD.

It follows strong results for the AfD in the eastern states of Brandenburg on September 1, where it surged to second place, and marks another major setback for Ms Merkel.

Carsten Nickel, managing director at consultancy Teneo said of the result: “At the geographical heart of Germany, even all centrist parties combined would still lack a majority.

“In light of another strong showing from the far-right, the CDU debate about the right path into the post-Merkel world will certainly continue.”

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was chosen as the CDU’s leader almost a year ago, but she has failed to stamp her authority on the party, leading to questions among party members over whether she is the right person to succeed Ms Merkel as Chancellor.

Ms Merkel’s already fragile coalition Government was called into question on Saturday after the SDP voted in the majority for Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor Olaf Scholz as the party’s new leader, with 22.7 percent of the polls.

Nobody received 50 percent of the vote, so Mr Scholz will now face a run-off against the second-highest duo, the party has said.

In total 426,000 SPD members were polled, with Mr Scholz taking 22.7 percent of the vote.

The second ballot will take place in the latter half of November, while the result of the membership decision must then be confirmed by a party convention in early December.

But further problems are developing, as Mrs Merkel’s coalition parter, the SPD, are polling at just 14 percent – just off all-time lows.

The party had been without a leader since June when Andrea Nahles quit after the party’s worst result in a European election.

Some of the SPD’s 426,000 members are desperately urging the party to leave the coalition and reinvent itself in opposition, but this could trigger a snap election or a minority government.

Many members are losing patience in propping up Ms Merkel, and believe they have plummeted significantly in recent polls by conceding too much to the CDU on core policy.The German Chancellor’s Grand Coalition had already been built on weak ground at the start of 2018 after both parties suffered heavy losses in national elections the previous September.

Politics analyst Frank Decker from Bonn University said said: “How things continue with the grand coalition is a big issue with members and has been the elephant in the room in the leadership race.

“Opinion is divided but more members probably preferred to quit government than stay.”

Both the CDU and SPD could be on course to lose any snap election, with the AfD making significant gains in eastern Germany.

But none of Germany’s parties want to go into coalition with the AfD, further muddying the creaking political platform in the country.

They are the third largest party in Germany’s federal legislature behind the CDU and SPD.

But the ultra-right stance of Bjoern Hoecke – the AfD’s leader in Thuringia –

is threatening deep divides in the party.

His push to pull the party to the right has set alarm bells ringing among more moderate members who fear his anti-immigrant position will unlikely win over voters in western Germany.

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