Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU bloc sunk to a historic low in Sunday’s vote, their worst election showing in post-war German history.
Among the major upsets, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) flipped Merkel’s own constituency on the Baltic coast in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, taking a seat Merkel had held uninterrupted since 1990.
Her would-be conservative successor, Georg Günther, was soundly beaten by 27-year-old Anna Kassautzki, who was promptly dubbed “Merkel’s heir” in local media despite hailing from a competing party.
Merkel, who’s stepping down as chancellor when a new government is formed, had continuously won a direct mandate in the electoral district 15 of Vorpommern-Rügen – Vorpommern-Greifswald I since it was created after reunification in Germany.
Merkel held a goodbye tour in the area last week, ahead of the federal vote plus the state elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania which were held on the same day. The Social Democrats emerged as the winners of the state vote.
Across the country, German voters clearly weren’t inspired by the conservative team without Merkel.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, from Merkel’s centre-right CDU-CSU bloc, was defeated by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) in a duel for the district of Saarlouis.
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In the same state of Saarland, Defence Minister and former CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer lost her Saarbrrücken constituency, also to a rival
from the SPD, the party that narrowly won Sunday’s general election.
Merkel’s chief of staff and close confidant Helge Braun suffered the same fate in Giessen in the western state of Hesse.
Under Germany’s complex electoral system, which sees voters tick a box for their constituency candidate and another one for their preferred party, MPs who lose a direct mandate still have a chance to stay in the parliament thanks to the overall number of seats allocated to their party.
But the ignominy of losing several high-profile direct mandates adds to the pain for conservatives, who came second in Sunday’s tight race with 24.1 percent of votes, trailing SPD’s 25.7 percent.
Their showing casts a shadow on Merkel’s political retirement after 16 years in power, exposing the veteran leader to criticism that she failed to
properly prepare her succession.
Was there any good news for the CDU?
There was better news for CDU heavyweight Wolfgang Schäuble, the country’s parliamentary speaker and former finance minister, who defended his seat for the 14th consecutive time.
Merkel’s old conservative foe Friedrich Merz is set to make his parliamentary comeback after snatching a direct mandate from an SPD candidate.
Health Minister Jens Spahn from the CDU, who has been steering the country through the coronavirus pandemic, easily held onto his seat in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.