Hamburg: Chancellor Angela Merkel`s Christian Democrats suffered a crushing defeat in a regional election in the northern German city-state of Hamburg on Sunday that will make it harder for her coalition to pass laws.
The rout, the party`s worst post-war result, will cost the CDU three seats in the upper house, or Bundesrat.
The unexpectedly large scope of the defeat may cause turbulence for Merkel and her conservatives at the national level with six further regional elections coming this year.
The CDU fell to 20.8 percent from 42.6 percent in the last election in 2008, according to an ARD TV projection. The drop of 21.8 points was the steepest decline ever between elections for the CDU and about five points worse than pollsters had forecast.
"It`s an hour of helplessness for us," said the defeated CDU candidate for mayor in Hamburg, Christoph Ahlhaus.
The CDU was crushed because Ahlhaus was deeply unpopular and ran a poor campaign while the Social Democratic (SPD) candidate, highly regarded ex-Labour Minister Olaf Scholz, won back traditional SPD voters and moderates by making the economy and debt reduction the focus of his run in Germany`s richest state.
"The CDU has suffered a heavy defeat," said CDU general secretary Hermann Groehe, Merkel`s deputy party leader.
The opposition SPD won 49.8 percent of the vote, up from 34.1 percent in 2008, ARD public television said. The SPD was projected to win 64 seats in the Hamburg State Assembly, three more than needed for an absolute majority.
It was the SPD`s best result anywhere since 1994.
"It`s an historic result not only for us but also for the others," said SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, referring to the CDU`s record-breaking plunge. "It`s an impressive result."
Hamburg is the first of seven state elections this year. The loss of three seats in the Bundesrat, which represents Germany`s states, will make it harder for Merkel`s CDU-Free Democrats coalition to pass federal legislation.
The Bundesrat has to approve about half of the legislation that passes through the Bundestag (lower house).