Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have seen their worst-ever result at elections in the city state of Hamburg, receiving only 15.9 percent of the vote. However, Merkel is defending the conservative candidate.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) garnered only 15.9 percent of the vote in the city state of Hamburg - compared to 21.9 percent four years ago. Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democrats won a resounding victory in the traditionally left-leaning port city in Sunday's elections - with almost 46 percent of the vote.
Commenting on the election on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel referred to the outcome as a "bitter result" for her Christian Democratic Union. However, she did not blame the conservative candidate Dietrich Wersich for the results of the Hamburg election, calling him an "ideal candidate." According to the chancellor, the strong SPD mayor Olaf Scholz was one of the main reasons why the conservative candidate lost the election. "Even most of the CDU-supporters say they appreciate the mayor's work," Merkel added. She even declared that Scholz "did not make any mistakes" as a mayor.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union is the strongest party on the national level, having garnered 41.5 percent of the votes at the elections for the national parliament in 2013 - trumping the Social Democrats by more than 15 percent. However, the German conservatives are less successful at regional and local elections. None of the ten biggest cities in Germany are ruled by a conservative mayor.
After the defeat at the Hamburg election, Merkel was asked whether her party should start a debate on a new strategy for big cities in order to reach more voters in urban areas. She insisted that it was necessary to have "a consistent program across Germany" instead of "one strategy for cities and another one for rural areas".
According to analysts, the Christian Democratic Union lost votes to the Social Democratic Party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the right-wing conservative party Alternative for Germany (AfD) at the elections in Hamburg. The AfD launched nearly two years ago on an anti-euro platform. At the Hamburg elections, it won its first seats in a state assembly in Western Germany, after winning representation in the former eastern states of Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg.
The Social Democrats' vote share is nearly three percentage points lower than it was four years ago, so they will need a coalition partner. The most likely candidate for forming the new government is the environmentalist Green Party, which claimed 12.2 percent of the vote in Hamburg on Sunday.
das/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)