Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives CDU party suffered their worst-ever result in Hamburg on Sunday. The result followed the shock resignation of their new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK) and an on-off fiasco over an electoral alliance with the right wing Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD).
Earlier this month, a CDU branch in the eastern state of Thuringia defied AKK’s instructions and voted with the AfD to unseat the Left Party’s State Premier Bodo Ramelow and install the little-known Thomas Kemmerich, from the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The move, which Merkel called “unforgivable,” broke with a consensus among mainstream parties of not cooperating with the right-wing group, and “noticeably overshadowed the Hamburg election campaign,” according to CDU candidate Marcus Weinberg.
Preliminary results also showed the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) gaining admission to the Hamburg parliament, only a few days after an anti-immigrant gunman killed 11 people, including himself, in the western town of Hanau.
The Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens celebrated in Germany’s second-biggest city after taking first and second place, meaning they should retain power together in the northern port and city-state.
The CDU suffered after party leader and Merkel protegee Kramp-Karrenbauer said she would stand aside, blowing open the race to succeed the chancellor and throwing the party into turmoil.
The CDU fell to third place, scoring just 11.2%. The Euro-sceptic AfD, which has capitalised on anger over Merkel’s open-door migrant policy, especially in the former Communist East, won 6.1%, just over the 5% threshold needed to get into the state parliament.
“It is a bitter day for the CDU in Germany and a historically bad result in Hamburg,” said CDU Secretary General Paul Ziemiak.
The CDU leadership team has named April 25 for a decision on the party chair and possibly the chancellor candidate. Four or five candidates are jockeying for the jobs.
Preliminary results showed that the SPD, who share power with the CDU at the federal level, had also lost about 6% from the last vote in 2015 but on 39.1%, are still by the far the biggest party in Hamburg.
The Greens did best, reflecting their national strength driven by growing fears about climate change, almost doubling their vote to 24.1% and national co-leader Robert Habeck declared it a “fantastic result”.
Nationally, the Greens are second, behind the conservative bloc, and many commentators expect them to have a role in the next federal government.
Merkel, chancellor for almost 15 years, has said she will not run again in the next federal election, due by October 2021. There may however be pressure for her to leave office earlier before even more damage is done to the CDU, which seems to be drifting in a difficult political climate.
Later in the year, there are a series of local elections in Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Leipzig in the east.