Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats have suffered a worse than expected defeat in a crucial regional election in the northern city-state of Hamburg.
Exit polls show the CDU capturing just 20 percent of the vote, a massive drop of 22 percent points and the biggest reversal in the party’s history between elections.
If confirmed, the result will make life more difficult for Angela Merkel’s coalition at a national level as it will lose control of the parliament’s upper house.
The leader of Hamburg’s Social Democrat party, Olaf Scholz, now looks set to secure an outright majority.
In contrast, Merkel’s Christian Democrat ally, Christoph Ahlhous, appeared to be relying on the good weather to galvanise his support. Since taking over as mayor of Hamburg last year the CDU’s popularity has plunged.
The election in Hamburg is the first of seven regional tests for Merkel this year, with the SPD riding high in polls nationwide.