BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative allies triumphed in Bavaria's state election Sunday, a week before the whole country votes, though a painful setback for her coalition partners added to uncertainty over the outcome of the national election.
The Merkel-allied Christian Social Union, traditionally the dominant force in the prosperous southern region, won 47.7 percent of the vote, official results showed. It won back a majority in the state legislature it humiliatingly lost in 2008, gaining more than four percentage points.
"This election gives us tailwind for the national election," said Hermann Groehe, the general secretary of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. But, he warned, "it is of course clear that the national election hasn't yet been decided."
Merkel's national governing partners, the pro-market Free Democrats, won only 3.3 percent of the vote Sunday, losing more than half their support and all their seats in the legislature in Munich.
That's a concern for Merkel as she seeks a parliamentary majority for her current center-right coalition in next Sunday's election. She is heavily favored to win a third term, but her chances of continuing to govern with the Free Democrats — her partners of choice — look less rosy.
Germany's main opposition party, the Social Democrats of Merkel challenger Peer Steinbrueck, finished a distant second in Bavaria with 20.6 percent. That was two percentage points better than the post-World War II low they hit five years ago, but too little to give them any hope of unseating the conservatives or much national momentum.
And their allies, the Greens, slipped to a disappointing 8.6 percent.
"This is a great election success," Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, the CSU leader, told supporters in Munich. The CSU has led Bavaria since 1957, most of that time with an absolute majority.
"With this, the year 2008 is history," Seehofer said. "We're back."
In Berlin, a somber Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler, the Free Democrats' leader, sought to rally his party — which governed Bavaria with Seehofer for the past five years. It's also weak in national polls, hovering around the 5 percent needed to keep its seats in the national Parliament.
"We all know that things are different in Bavaria — and from now on, it's all about Germany," Roesler said. "And this result is a wake-up call."
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