Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies are heading for their worst showing in a state election in over 60 years, a setback that risks widening divisions within Germany’s crisis-prone national government.
Polls show the Christian Social Union (CSU) will win at most 35 percent on Sunday, losing the absolute majority with which it has controlled its southeastern heartland for most of the post-war period.
That stable power base has also allowed the CSU, sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), to punch above its weight in Berlin.
Since Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to more than 1 million migrants, CSU leader Horst Seehofer has been a thorn in her side, gradually shifting his party to the right to counter the rise of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
“I would expect Seehofer to lash out against her again,” said Carsten Nickel at consultancy Teneo Intelligence. “The CSU is in decline, and that process …is not going to play out without significant noise.”
Divisions between the conservative allies have widened further since March, when an inconclusive national election forced them into a coalition with the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD).
Merkel’s fourth and probably final government has already come close to collapsing twice, in arguments over immigration and a scandal over Germany’s former domestic spymaster, while a simmering row over phasing out polluting diesel cars now threatens to boil over.
On Thursday SPD leader Andrea Nahles, citing divisions between the CDU and CSU, again questioned her party’s future in the government.