Mar 15, 2021 - World

Regional election defeats set stage for Merkel's tricky last act

Merkel and Laschet. Photo: Hauter-Pool/Getty Images

Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) suffered embarrassing defeats in two regional elections on Sunday, casting doubt on the party’s chances of retaining power after Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down later this year.

Why it matters: The defeats also damage new CDU leader Armin Laschet’s chances of representing the German center-right in September’s general elections.

  • Even after winning the party’s leadership in January, Laschet could be passed over in favor of the leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, Markus Söder, when it comes time to pick a nominee for chancellor.
  • Laschet attributed the defeats to voters' concerns about the government's management of the pandemic amid a slow vaccine rollout and rising cases.

The state of play: The CDU is still likely to be the largest party after September’s elections, and may lead a coalition with the increasingly popular Greens.

  • But there’s growing speculation about a “traffic light” coalition (so named because of the parties' colors) between the Greens, Social Democrats and Free Democrats, which would exclude the CDU after 16 years of Merkel.

What to watch: The next round of regional elections will come in June.

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