Elections in the eastern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on September 4 resulted in another humiliating defeat for the conservative government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) had already suffered five election defeats this year.
The Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania defeat was particularly galling for Merkel because the state includes her own constituency.
On polling day, the CDU could muster only 23.1% of the vote, down by more than 5.7% since 2006. It was its worst result in the state since German unification in 1990.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) took 35.7% of the vote, an increase of 5.5% on 2006.
The socialist Die Linke ― campaigning on a platform of social justice, democratic rights and action on the environment ― won 18.4% of the vote. This was a 1.6% rise on the 2006 result and earned the party an extra seat, despite a year of fierce internal debate and ongoing media attacks.
SPD leader Premier Erwin Sellering now has the choice of continuing in government with the existing “Grand Coalition” with the CDU, or entering into a coalition with Die Linke.
The SPD shared government with Die Linke before 2006, but such an alliance appears unlikely this time.
This is despite the fact that the local Die Linke branch is dominated by the centrist “Realo” faction, which favours joining coalition governments.
The Greens won 8.5%, crossing the 5% threshold and entering state parliament for the first time.
For the first time, the Greens are now represented in every German parliament ― state and federal.
By contrast, the neoliberal fundamentalist Free Democratic Party (FDP) ― Merkel's ally in the federal coalition government ― slumped tojust 2.7%. It lost 6.9% of its previous vote and all its seats.
This continues a national trend over the past couple of years.
Growing voter disillusionment led to a record low turnout of only 51.3% ― down from 59% in 2006.
This helped the neo-Nazi German Nationalist Party (NPD) retain its representation in state parliament, despite widespread public criticism of its racist and violent politics.
The NPD actually lost support ― its share of the vote fell from 7% in 2006 to only 6%.
In some rural areas, however, the NPD polled about one-third of the votes.
Concerns are growing about the existence of exclusively neo-Nazi villages, where outsiders are driven away, children are taught in nationalist private schools and locals take part in paramilitary training.
Growing social inequality in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania ― Germany’s poorest state ― was a key factor in the neo-Nazis retaining support.
Twelve percent of the state’s 1.6 million inhabitants are unemployed ― three times the rate in the wealthy southern states. The state has low high-school retention rates.
Despite Merkel’s attempt to separate the result from her handling of the euro crisis, Germany’s DAX dropped by several percentage points when elections results were announced, as did the Euro.
Having survived a legal challenge to the euro bailout on September 7, Merkel still faces a key parliamentary vote on the European Financial Stability Facility ― the mechanism to cope with sovereign debt ― on September 23.