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January 17, 2022

Angela Merkel’s party crushed in Hamburg poll

HAMBURG – Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have suffered a humiliating defeat in a key German regional election – a blow that will make governing all the more difficult for her already shaky coalition, The Guardian reports.

The CDU lost control of Hamburg to the opposition SPD party, which won 48.3per cent of the vote – enough to win an absolute majority with 62 of the 121 seats in the city-state’s parliament. The CDU took just 21.9per cent – its worst result in Germany’s second city since the second world war. The dramatic plunge in support for Merkel’s party, which polled 42.6per cent of the vote at the last election in Hamburg, in 2008, can be attributed to voter dissatisfaction with the chancellor’s handling of the euro crisis as well as problems within her own party at home – and particularly in Hamburg. Merkel herself stayed silent but public statements made by her closest aides suggest she believes the defeat was not her fault. Seven minutes after the result last night, her chief of staff, Eckart von Klaeden, went on TV to point out that the Hamburgers were voting “80per cent on local issues” rather than national ones.

But commentators insist the result will trouble the chancellor deeply. A headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung labelled it: “An earthquake that will shake Berlin.” In the story, the CDU general secretary Hermann Gröhe admitted it had been a “serious defeat” and that his party had suffered “great losses”.
Merkel will be hoping the result will not be repeated elsewhere. This year has been described as “super election year” in Germany, with a six more states due to go to the polls. The next big test for her will come at the end of March in the south-western region of Baden-Württemberg, where the CDU is in danger of losing power because of fierce arguments over plans for a multibillion-euro station in Stuttgart.

The Hamburg result marks a welcome upturn for the SPD, which has struggled nationally since the former SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder dissolved his coalition government with the Greens in 2005. Although Merkel is likely to remain chancellor until the next national election in 2013, the shift of power in Hamburg, where she had campaigned hard, will make it even more difficult for her federal coalition to pass laws.

This is because, in selecting the makeup of their regional parliament, the Bürgerschaft, Hamburgers also choose who their state sends to the powerful Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament.

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