| 27 February 2024, Tuesday |

Merkel’s party wins final state vote by big margin – exit poll

Germany’s centre right has fended off a challenge by the far right in the last regional test before national polls in September, an exit poll suggests.

The Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel won 36% of the vote in the state election in Saxony-Anhalt, a former part of East Germany.

It did much better than opinion polls had predicted.

The far-right Alternative for Germany took 22.5% after nearly equaling the CDU in the opinion polls.

Mrs Merkel has dominated German politics as chancellor since 2005, leading an uneasy coalition with the CDU’s old leftwing political foe, the Social Democrats (SDP), after the last election in 2017.

A centrist figure, Armin Laschet, has been picked to succeed her as the CDU’s leader in the September election.

How did the parties do in Sunday’s election?

The CDU has dominated Saxony-Anhalt since reunification in 1990 and its current Premier Reiner Haseloff looks set to return to power at the head of a coalition.

Even if they had won the largest share of the vote, the anti-immigrant AfD would not have been able to govern as the smaller parties had ruled out any deal involving it.

According to the exit polls:

  • Die Linke, rooted in the old East German state Communist party, came third with 11%
  • The SPD won 8.5%
  • The Greens won 6.5%
  • The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) won 6.5%

Angela Merkel’s supporters cheered in Saxony-Anhalt as the results came in. They have overcome a significant challenge from the AfD. And there will be relief in Berlin too.

This is the last regional election before Germany goes to the ballot box in September. Mrs Merkel is standing down and Armin Laschet has struggled to reinvigorate dwindling public support for the CDU.

Its main challenge at the national level comes from the Green Party. Mr Laschet will no doubt be relieved that the Greens did not make significant gains in Saxony-Anhalt.

But the celebrations may be short-lived. Many analysts believe the CDU’s regional victory is simply down to a popular local leader. And with four months to the general election it’s still by no means guaranteed that Angela Merkel’s party will hold on to the keys to the chancellery.