German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party has suffered poor results in two key regional votes seen as major tests ahead of September’s general election.
The Christian Democrats (CDU) won about a quarter of the vote in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, early results show.
The party has historically enjoyed strong support in these western states.
Mrs Merkel is due to step down as German chancellor in September, after 16 years in office.
Germany is a federal state made up of 16 regions. Under this system, there are elections to regional legislatures as well as those to the national parliament, called the Bundestag.
The slump in the CDU vote comes amid anger in Germany at the slow pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and a mask procurement scandal.
Several conservative lawmakers have quit over allegations they received huge commissions for arranging government deals to buy face masks.
Speaking to the BBC, the CDU MP Kai Whittaker said the results were disappointing.
“It’s a bad day for us,” he said. “So, we cannot deny that there’s a risk that we’re losing touch with the people.”
The results are even worse than expected, and are being blamed on how the CDU is managing the pandemic.
Rising infection numbers and the slow vaccine rollout have soured the national mood. And there is fury that some conservative MPs have earned huge commissions on government deals to procure masks.
Angela Merkel herself is still popular. But with just six months to go before her final term ends, these results don’t bode well for the chances of her party in the general election.