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Merkel's latest woes

Merkels latest woes

If the far Right and anti-immigration Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) had made it very difficult for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to form a coalition government, it has now left a stamp of authority in her erstwhile stronghold, Bavaria. The ruling Christian Social Union lost its majority in the Bavarian state parliament. That, indeed, is likely to rattle Merkel's fragile "grand coalition" government. The Christian Social Union, or CSU, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's conservative Christian Democrat Union, or CDU, has dominated politics in the state since the end of World War II, ruling for all but three years for nearly seven decades. But that has changed. The CSU got only 37.2 per cent of the vote and fringe parties won a huge boost in Sunday's elections. The pro-immigration, environmentalist Greens ran in second place with 17.5 per cent, increasing their support, while the AfD, took 10.2 per cent of the vote, giving it seats in parliament for the first time.

Bavaria bore the brunt of the 2015 refugee crisis; at its peak, thousands of asylum seekers were crossing into the state every day. Since then, both Merkel and her CSU allies have been criticised for their management of the influx. The influx has a history of its own. It started with the Turks coming in since even before the unification. And, after the continuing unrest in the Middle East when refugees fled for shelter, Europe and, Germany particularly, was their destination. The outcome is likely to have an impact on Merkel's coalition government, which took four months to form through difficult negotiations and has come close to imploding over migration issues. The Social Democrats, known as SPD, also in Merkel's grand coalition, lost their second-place spot in Sunday's vote, winning 9.7 per cent of the votes, around half what they had in the 2013 election. SPD leader Andrea Nahles did not explicitly name Merkel but pointed to the Chancellor's coalition as a reason for her party's major setback. "Clear the path for new elections, clear the path for policy in our country." Merkel, now serving her fourth term, could find herself fighting to keep her job as party chair when the CDU holds its annual congress in December. To ward off a mutiny in her coalition, she may be pressured to shake up her cabinet before Congress. Bavaria's State Premier Markus Soeder from the CSU said there were "lessons to be learnt from Sunday's painful results," but as the front-runner, the party still had the right to form a government. Bavaria appears to have followed electoral trends in other parts of Europe. Populist anti-migrant parties across the region have splintered traditional support bases on the left and right, leading to fractured election outcomes and more coalition governments.

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