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'Seismic' change in Bavarian politics bodes ill for Merkel

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'Seismic' change in Bavarian politics bodes ill for Merkel


Exit polls show the Bavarian sister party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Conservatives has suffered its biggest defeat in a state election for half a century.

A year before Merkel stands for re-election, the Christian Social Union, or CSU, saw its score plunge 17 points from the last poll in 2003 to just over 43 percent. It means the party has lost its absolute majority.

“This is a painful, difficult day for the party,” said CSU leader Erwin Huber. His counterpart, Bavarian state premier Guenther Beckstein, said the party would not rule out forming a coalition. Both men face an uncertain political future.

The CSU counts for more than 20 per cent of the conservative bloc in Germany’s lower house and the Bavarian party’s strength helped Merkel win her slim majority in the last federal vote in 2005.

Many of the votes went to a range of smaller parties. The Social Democrats also saw losses, despite recently selecting the popular Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier to run against Merkel. He, however, remained undeterred: “This is a historic vote for Bavaria,” he said.

“We won’t talk about the elections tonight, just about this political earthquake that has taken place.”

The CSU has presided over Bavaria’s transformation from a rural state into a prosperous high-tech economy. But analysts say voters have been disillusioned by the recent smoking ban, big spending cuts and heavy losses at state bank Bayern LB.

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