Allies threaten to walk as Merkel suffers blow in regional elections

Allies threaten to walk as Merkel suffers blow in regional elections

But its share of the vote plummeted to about 27 percent, its poorest result in half a century in the wealthy state and a far cry from the 38 percent it achieved in the last state election just five years ago.

An election Sunday in the central state of Hesse saw both the CDU and the Social Democrats lose significant ground, while there were gains for both the Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany.

The government has been through two major crises, first over whether to turn back small numbers of migrants at the German-Austrian border and then over what to do with the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service after he was accused of downplaying far-right violence against migrants.

Merkel, who has headed the CDU for 18 years, had until now always indicated that she believed the posts of party leader and chancellor should be held by the same person.

Following the close election results, the SPD's leader, Andrea Nahles, has announced a mid-term review of the current coalition government next year, taking the declining voting numbers as a sign that the German electorate is growing exhausted of the coalition's constant in-fighting and lack of progress on bringing legislative change to Germany.

Merkel is under pressure from her Social Democrat coalition partners to deliver more policy results and the centre-left party could yet pull out of the government at a mid-term review next year.

German chancellor Angela Merkel is battling with her coalition partners over immigration.

That means the CDU will nearly certainly remain in charge, with the Greens and the centrist Free Democrats as likely coalition partners. She is expected to be one of the candidates for party leadership.

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Mrs Merkel's conservative CDU party now rules along with the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). But the CDU and ecologist Greens may lack sufficient support to renew their ruling alliance in the state.

CDU leaders will meet next Sunday to prepare for a summit in December where party members will vote for a new chairman.

Merkel also reportedly said that she won't seek re-election to parliament after its current term ends, indicating that this will be her final term as chancellor - something that had been widely assumed but that Merkel has not until now confirmed.

The SPD's results showed the same dynamics, as the party attracted 10 percent fewer voters than in 2013.

Being able to keep Bouffier, a deputy CDU leader, as governor will stabilize Merkel in the short term, he said.

Ms Merkel's decision follows a drop in support in a state election in Hesse, the second such electoral setback for her conservative alliance.

The other big victor was the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which entered the Hesse regional assembly for the first time with 12 percent of the vote, the ARD exit poll showed.

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