A string of mayoral wins for Germany's center-left Social Democrats have left Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats holding only one chief seat in major German cities. The greatest upset was in Dusseldorf.
Run-off mayoral elections left over after last month's swathe of European and communal polls in Germany delivered losses on Sunday for Merkel's conservatives in two regional states, North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) and Lower Saxony.
Her coalition partners at federal level, the Social Democrats (SPD) led by Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, scored mayoral wins in the NRW capital of Dusseldorf and two other NRW cities Dortmund and Bielefeld.
In Germany's northern state of Lower Saxony, the SPD won the mayoralties in Braunschweig, Göttigen and the regional capital Hanover.
SPD upset in Dusseldorf
The biggest surprise was in Dusseldorf, where incumbent CDU mayor Dirk Albers lost heavily to the SPD's Thomas Geisel, who got 59.2 percent of the vote.
Geisel's win ends 15 years of CDU rule in Dusseldorf, where NRW also has its regional assembly led by SPD premier Hannelore Kraft (pictured with Geisel).
Elbers, who emerged ahead in the opening round, ended up on Sunday with only 40.8 percent.
He had been mayor since 2008 and campaigned on Dusseldorf's largely debt-free status - a rarity among many adjacent cities in NRW's troubled once-industrial heartland.
In Lower Saxony's second largest city, Braunschweig, the CDU's Hennig Brandes scored only 33.5 percent to lose heavily to SPD challenger Ulrich Markurth, who amassed 66.5 percent.
Turnouts of voters on Sunday were low, ranging between 30 and 40 percent in the respective municipalities.
For the CDU the losses add to previous departures of CDU mayors in major cities, including Stuttgart, Cologne, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden.
Only Dresden remains for CDU
The CDU now only holds the mayoralty in one of Germany's 16 regional capitals - Dresden, the main city of the eastern state of Saxony.
Similarly, in terms of Germany's ten largest cities, the SPD holds the mayoral seats in eight of them, with Stuttgart's mayor being the Greens party member Fritz Kuhn.
ipj/jr (dpa, APF)