Elections in German state of Hesse to test public and political support for Chancellor Merkel

German weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin
Photo: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke
German weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin
Photo: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces another big test to her leadership and the cohesion of her coalition when state elections are held in the central state of Hesse.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in Hesse are in a rare coalition with the centre-left Greens. The Social Democrats (SPD), the second-largest party in Merkel’s federal coalition is in opposition to the CDU in Hesse.

Polls show the Greens are neck-and-neck with the SPD for second-place behind the CDU. The environmentalists are on track for a big surge from their current 11% from last election to at least 20% today. Those numbers gives them several paths to government, including a leftist coalition with SPD and the far-left Linke, knocking the CDU from power.

Merkel faces two challenges today. On one hand, a loss of seats today would be a huge blow to Merkel’s chance of being re-elected as party leader in December. It would be the second voter slap on Merkel’s government, coming two weeks after the disastrous Bavarian election.

On the other hand, a poor showing by the SPD may agitate party activists to campaign for the SPD’s withdrawal from Merkel’s federal coalition. Should this happen, Merkel’s grand coalition will collapse as it would leave the CDU/CSU only 33% of seats.

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