Exit polls indicate Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats have suffered losses in an election in the state of Hesse. Chancellor Merkel’s party is hoping to avoid an embarassing result ahead of next year’s national vote.
The projections say Hesse premier Roland Koch will take 36.5 percent of the vote, down from 49 percent in 2003.
The Social Democrats, led by Andrea Ypsalanti, rose to 37 percent, fractionally ahead of the CDU. But it is unclear which party will take power because their preferred coalition partners are also too close to call.
Law and order has been a big issue with Koch advocating tough measures against foreigners who commit crime. His opponents say his hardline views are xenophobic and divisive.
A defeat or heavy losses for Koch would reflect badly on his ally Chancellor Angela Merkel who has backed his policies on crime. Another regional election took place today in the state of Lower Saxony. Both it and Hesse are traditional Christian Democrat strongholds. But in Lower Saxony a CDU victory seemed more assured.
The close result in Hesse is likely to ratchet up tensions in Merkel’s already fraught “grand coalition”, potentially leading to a policy standstill until the next federal vote.