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The election result is especially a big loss for CSU chairman and federal interior minister, Horst Seehofer, who has been highly critical of Merkel's welcoming policies toward asylum-seekers / Photo: Screenshot/CSU

Seehofer’s CSU records historic flop at Bavarian polls

Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), recorded a disaster in regional elections on Sunday (14 October).

The CSU – led by Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, which has governed the wealthy German state since the Second World War, lost its absolute majority in the regional parliament, as it struggles to define itself in the face of a populist challenge from the right by the anti-immigration, eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD).

According to preliminary results, the CSU lost its absolute majority in the southern German state, taking 37.2 percent of the vote. The Greens earned the second-largest share of the vote with at least 17.5 percent. They were followed by the right-leaning Free Voters with 11.6 percent and the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party with 10.2 percent. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) continued to decline in popularity, getting only 9.7 percent, while the business-friendly Free Democratic Party was projected to clear the five-percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation.

“Of course it’s not easy to separate ourselves from what’s going on nationally,” a noticeably sombre Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder said after the results were announced. “The main priority is to form a stable government for Bavaria as quickly as possible, and we accept that task.”

Those results leave the CSU needing a coalition partner, for only the third time in post-war history, if it is to continue to govern Germany’s largest territorial state. Söder could opt to form a two-party partnership with the left-leaning Greens, although both parties have expressed reservations about such an arrangement.

On the surface Sunday’s result might seem like a disaster for Germany’s embattled chancellor, but the effect for Merkel may actually be positive in the short term.

The CSU — particularly party chairman Seehofer, has been highly critical of Merkel’s welcoming policies toward asylum-seekers and largely excluded her from election campaigning. Thus, the CSU’s poor showing can be read as a voter rejection of that position. And the CSU may well avoid the sort of provocations and disruptions that marred the first six months of the current Merkel administration, analysts say.

With DW & agency reports

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